Jacksonville Beach beefs up police presence year after brawl

Police chief says fight gave wrong impression of beach community


JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A year ago a violent beach brawl had the Jacksonville Beach community calling for change.

It appears this year change was delivered for the Memorial Day holiday.

Channel 4 spoke with Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Patrick Dooley and beachgoers on Monday about the measures put in place to avoid a repeat of last year's problems.

Everyone had the same message: Jacksonville Beach police got it right.

"It was addressed immediately by police, and that (brawl) shouldn't be the brand that people try to give us out at the beach," Dooley said.

On Monday, police could be seen all through the beaches area on everything from Segways and ATVs to cruisers and bikes — along with plenty of boots on the ground.

"There's not a question. There are police here. They're going to look around and see police just about everywhere in some fashion or another," Dooley said. "That (brawl) was an anomaly. That was just a handful of people who got into a fight. It was blown way out of proportion."

Video of the beach brawl went viral last Memorial Day, prompting safety concerns and even a town hall meeting. Dooley said it created an unfair brand of the Jacksonville Beach scene — one holiday visitors said they didn't see any hint of on Monday.

"I definitely feel the police presence here, and it's intimidating enough to keep people from doing anything," said holiday beach visitor John Hackett.

While officers did address minor traffic, music and drinking violations, Dooley said this year's Memorial Day proved to be a holiday free from trouble.

He said similar staffing levels can be expected for the Fourth of July holiday and Labor Day weekend and gave credit to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office for helping to add more manpower to the patrols.