Young voters grill Caddo Parish Sheriff hopefuls on key issues

A heated debate between Nickelson and Whitehorn on crime, budget, and community relations


SHREVEPORT, Louisiana – Two candidates vying for the Caddo Parish Sheriff seat, John Nickelson and Henry Whitehorn, faced a panel of young voters at a “Teen Summit” event held at Southern University-Shreveport on Thursday. The panelists asked the candidates about their views on various topics, such as budget and technology, stop-and-frisk procedures, the opioid crisis, and incarceration rates for non-violent crimes.

Some main questions and excerpts from the candidates’ responses are summarized below.

What is your motivation for running for Sheriff?

Nickelson: “Sheriff Steve Prator, who I worked closely with as a city councilmember, asked me to run for his position several months ago. He knew how dedicated I was to supporting law enforcement. … I have the skills and experience to handle the tasks of setting policy, managing personnel, and setting budgets. I love this Parish and community and I want to serve them.”

Whitehorn: “I feel called by God to run for this office now. I have 40 years of law enforcement experience in this community. … I know this Parish and I know how to provide the best public safety to the citizens. … I have led a large organization with over 3,000 people and budgets over $800 Million. I have written and implemented policy as state police, as the Chief of Police, and for the City of Shreveport. I have all the qualifications to do this job well.”

How would you reduce the incarceration rates?

Whitehorn: “We need to have more options for our police officers than just arresting people. We need to involve the community, the courts, the prosecutors and you in finding solutions. … Not all crimes are violent crimes. If they are, we will put you in jail for them. But if they are not, we should look for alternatives, because there are underlying factors that lead people to commit crimes, and we have to address those factors to make sure we have alternatives and we can keep our young people out of jail.”

Nickelson: “Some people need to be incarcerated for their own safety and the safety of others. … But incarceration is not the solution for every problem. … One of the things I did as a city council member, inspired by my work as a lawyer, was I collaborated with councilwoman Tabitha Taylor to change the law in the city and the state so people would not go to jail for having a small amount of marijuana. … That’s a concrete example of a major policy change that I was involved in that affected millions of people.”

How would you tackle the opioid epidemic?

Nickelson: “Opioids, especially Fentanyl, are a huge problem for this community and the whole country. Thousands of people die every year from overdosing on opioids. And a tiny amount of Fentanyl can kill you. … I want to focus, refocus, and renew our efforts on finding, arresting, and jailing people who are selling dangerous drugs. It is a fact that in this court and state court, people who are caught selling drugs like Fentanyl or methamphetamine often get probation or a short prison sentence. I have compassion for those who are addicted to drugs and need help, but drug dealers need to go to prison.”

Whitehorn: “We have to work together with other agencies and organizations to address the opioid epidemic. We have to educate our community, especially our young people, about the dangers of opioids. We have to provide treatment and recovery programs for those who are addicted to opioids. We have to enforce the laws and hold accountable those who are trafficking opioids. We have to use technology and intelligence to track and disrupt the supply of opioids. We have to save lives and prevent tragedies.”

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