JSO to add 80 officers, replace 100 in next year

40 new officers, 40 new community service officers funded in city budget

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than $1 million in the city's budget is now going toward hiring more officers at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

That money was approved Monday night with the goal of cutting down on crime in Jacksonville, city leaders said.

With that money, JSO will be able to hire 40 new officers and 40 new community service officers, who handle issues like traffic and crowd control to free up sworn officers to deal with crime.

Sheriff Mike Williams said Tuesday that he feels positively about the fact that his department, the mayor and the City Council are all on the same page when it comes to public safety. He said that the department has already begun trying to identify the right people to bring in for the newly funded positions.

"We have a great process and our training academy staff does a fantastic job," Williams said. "That process is there. It's just a matter of identifying good quality people of character who have the integrity and putting them in that process."

That process isn't necessarily a quick one, but having recruits already in training can help. Especially because the 80 new hires aren't the only ones the Sheriff's Office will be making.

Because of a deferred retirement, or DROP, program, there are close to 100 officers who will have to retire by the end of next year.

"We will continue to replace those (officers)," Williams said. "In the next 20 months, we will hire about 200 people at JSO. That is replacing the officers we will lose in DROP, that's including the 40 officers that we will hire out of this budget and again the 40 CSOs. That's a huge force multiplier for us."

During his campaign, Williams talked about hiring 147 new officers and bring back the CSO force. He said the 80 positions are a great first step to doing that.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, a former JSO officer, said there is only one potential downside to so many new hires.

"When you are losing that many officers, you are losing a lot of experience," Smith said. "You just don't have the veterans out there that can help the newer officers, especially on the midnight shift, where most of the officers are very new officers."

Williams said he is excited that everyone was able to make the priorities from the mayoral and sheriff campaigns a reality so quickly after they took office.

He said that he is hopeful the new officers JSO brings on help carry on the department's message and provide a renewed energy to the force.