Shelby County Sheriff announces candidacy for Memphis mayor

Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 10:17 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The man in charge of running the Shelby County Jail wants to run the City of Memphis.

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner announced his candidacy for Memphis mayor on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Sheriff Bonner is the top cop in Shelby County, with more than 40 years of experience in law enforcement. He became the first Black elected sheriff of Shelby County in 2018.

Now, after winning a second term by a landslide in August, he’s back on the campaign trail with his eyes set on Memphis City Hall.   

“Today I’m announcing my candidacy and my plan to become the next Mayor of Memphis,” Bonner said to a crowd of about 100 people gathered at the Clark Tower in East Memphis. “I was told that Memphis needed a mayor to bring this city together because we are facing too many challenges, too many challenges if we’re not all headed in the same direction.”

Sheriff Bonner said his 42 years with the sheriff’s office make him uniquely qualified to be Memphis mayor.

”Memphis needs a mayor who knows law enforcement and can address the city’s biggest challenge, which is crime,” Bonner said. But criminal justice advocates say Sheriff Bonner needs to focus first on the problems plaguing 201 Poplar.

“The Shelby County Jail is a dangerous place,” said Josh Spickler, executive director of Just City.

Just City joined several other organizations and lawyers in suing Sheriff Bonner, accusing him of violating inmates’ rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recent death of inmate Gershun Freeman is now on Just City’s radar.

”This is not the first time this has happened this year,” Spickler said. “And it won’t be the last, probably. And it’s certainly not the first under the current sheriff’s administration.”

Sheriff Bonner would not discuss how Freeman died, telling Action News 5, “It’s still under investigation, I can’t talk about it.”

Nor would he talk about ways to fix what ails the county jail.

Inmates like Jesse Foster complained last month about the lack of access to showers, phone calls, and medical care in the jail.

“It’s absolutely inhumane to treat people the way they treat them down there,” said Foster. “We were treated like dogs.”

SCSO confirmed that a current staffing shortage is impacting operations and the 2,200 inmates inside 201.

The sheriff attributes other issues to the jail’s age.

201 Poplar opened four decades ago.

The sheriff allowed several Shelby County Commissioners to tour the jail this month and get a firsthand look at how run-down the facility is.

“If the commissioners are wanting us to have that new jail, I welcome that. I will be happy to sit down with them and talk about building a new jail,” said Sheriff Bonner.

Bonner will also need a change of address to run for Memphis mayor. He and his wife currently live in Bartlett.

“Memphis needs a lot of things, but Floyd Bonner moving from Bartlett to Memphis and running for Mayor are not two of them,” Spickler tweeted following Bonner’s announcement.

Sheriff Bonner joins a growing list of candidates for Memphis Mayor: NAACP President Van Turner and Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Young are also in the race.

Judge Joe Brown and Memphis-Shelby County Schools Board Member Michelle McKissack are considering campaigns of their own.

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