TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A bill that would name a stretch of Interstate 295 in honor of a Jacksonville officer killed in a crash there is now one step from being passed by the Florida Senate.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, read the bill on the Senate floor Thursday and with no objections, it was added to the calendar for its third and final reading, when it will be voted on.
The bill passed through three committees with unanimous votes before Thursday's second reading.
The bill would designate the portion of I-295's east beltway between Alta Drive and Pulaski Road as Officer Lance Christian Whitaker Highway.
Whitaker was killed in a crash on that stretch of I-295 when his patrol car ran off the road while responding to a separate crash in May 2018.
“Officer Whitaker moved to Jacksonville in 1982 and began his law enforcement career with the Atlantic Beach Police Department, followed by 17 years with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office,” Gibson said. "Officer Whitaker had a witty sense of humor, with a contagious smile, and he dedicated himself to serving others and continuously made new friends in the communities he worked in.”
Gibson said the warm feeling Whitaker left with those he helped shows the difference positive interactions with law enforcement officers can make.
“It so much points to the fact that when we have good relationships with our law enforcement officers in our communities, there's trust building and our communities are better off,” Gibson said.
A date for the third reading has not been set, but the bill's progress can be followed at flsenate.gov.