After Bishop Ed Stephens Jr. (left), pastor of Golden Gate Cathedral, opened Wednesday’s press conference with a prayer, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. announced he is running for a second term. Also pictured (l-r): Bonner’s wife, Audrey Bonner; their daughter-in-law, Courtney Bonner, and her daughter, Emery Bonner. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. used the backdrop of the East Memphis Clark Tower skyscraper to announce his re-election bid Wednesday (Sept. 22) morning.

During a 20-minute news conference, Bonner reviewed his past three years in office, with the sheriff saying “quite a few things have been accomplished.”

Bonner, the African American elected Shelby County sheriff, said, “Since being elected in 2018, we’ve been able to accomplish quite a few things here at the Sheriff’s Office. “And I say ‘we’ because it was a team effort. We’ve been able to maintain the jail, law enforcement and training divisions for accreditation.”

Bonner said his administration also has effectively managed the budget for three years, and even returned $8 million to the Shelby County Commission last year.

Although Bonner did not discuss recent criticisms of crowding in Shelby County jails, he did say the jail population has been “safely reduced.”

Independent inspections earlier this year were conducted by a criminal justice consulting firm appointed in a pending case against Bonner and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

Charges call the jail system “ill-equipped” to effectively enforce safety measures related to COVID-19. Consultants said the population continues to be 50 percent higher than what is allowed for “meaningful social distancing” to occur.

Bonner said a special adjudicator, Judge Michelle Best, looks at cases of detainees and cases that have been pending for some time. 

Best acts as an agent of the Sheriff’s Office to contact prosecutors and other officers of the court to see how such cases might be expedited.

The work that Best does has reduced the jail population considerably, Bonner said, adding that efforts in bail reform have also helped to reduce the jail population. 

He said COVID-19 has hindered some efforts for more community outreach by the Sheriff’s Department.

Bonner also said that crime has been reduced each year in unincorporated Shelby County during his administration

Bonner said one of the things he really is proud of is the implementation of the Citizens Hiring Committee.

“The Citizens Hiring Committee helps command staff to choose the next officers,” said Bonner. “This allows citizens to have a say in the next deputy sheriffs that will police them.

Like other law enforcement entities in Tennessee, Bonner said he is short of officers, but has taken measures to attract new personnel. 

While the jail is 200 officers short, Bonner said he has raised the starting salary to $41,000, implemented a $5,000 sign-on bonus and even offered employees $1,000 for referrals who complete training and are hired.

If re-elected, Bonner wants to use a more holistic approach to fighting recidivism.

“I was just talking with someone this morning,” said Bonner. “It’s OK to mentor these children. And they have some heart-breaking stories. But if we mentor them and then send them back in the same environment, how can they really make a change?”

Party primary elections for county offices are May 3 next year. The county general election is Aug. 4, 2022. 

(For more information, visit reelectbonnerforsheriff.com.)