Community members meet to brainstorm solutions to officer-involved incidents

At meeting, Kemetic Empire asks community to vote no on mayor's pension referend

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Members of several local activist groups came together to host a town hall meeting Tuesday night in light of a deadly officer-involved shooting in Jacksonville and recent police beatings caught on camera.

A deadly police shooting last month, a video of an officer beating a handcuffed woman, a video of an officer punching a man at a convenience store and a 2014 jail video of a teenager being knocked unconscious by a corrections officer have community members voicing distrust of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Some community members said they feel that the Sheriff’s Office is not doing enough to keep officer-involved incidents from occurring and want to stop what they call “excessive police brutality.”

At Tuesday night’s meeting, community members specifically reflected on the death of Vernell Bing Jr., 22, who was shot once in the side of the head after leading officers on a 3.7-mile, high-speed chase that ended when it appeared he intentionally drove into Officer Tyler Landreville’s oncoming cruiser on a Springfield street, according to JSO.

“This whole issue could become a national movement very soon,” said Ben Frazier, spokesman for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Jacksonville Chapter.

Bings’ mother, Shirley McDaniel, sat front row -- in agreement that something must be done. Bing's father, Vernell Bing Sr., told News4Jax that though things have been difficult, his top priority now is to see the officer involved in the shooting arrested.

“This is going on in our neighborhood while the mayor, city councilmen, the Sheriff’s (Office), they go home to their nice neighborhoods in gated communities and it's just like we don't even exist,” Bing Sr. said.

The community members said the solution to help the relationship between officers and Jacksonville residents would be creating a citizen’s advisory board in Jacksonville, having body cameras on JSO officers and their patrol cars and having a mandatory outside agency investigate all of the Sheriff’s Office’s officer-involved shootings.

“The No. 1 thing is for the immediate arrest of Officer Landreville for the murder of Vernell Bing Jr. The second thing is body cameras on the officers and on the cars. The third is we are going to vote no on the referendum. We are asking the community to vote no on the referendum that the mayor is asking for,” said Diallo Sekou, chairman of Kemetic Empire.

All 19 members of the Jacksonville City Council voted last month to put the referendum on the August ballot, asking voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to pay off the city's multibillion-dollar pension deficit. Mayor Lenny Curry proposed the sales-tax replacement.

Also discussed at the meeting was the root of the issue, which Frazier said is poverty in the African-American community and a lack of stake in the economy. Frazier said that can be reversed.

“We need to encourage them, teach them and give them a strong education and let them know that they can win and also get their piece of the American pie,” Frazier said.

Other solutions discussed included the idea of more pastors urging their church members to get involved and have more of a voice when it comes to political and economic issues.

“So now we're still at the point of gathering the troops within ourselves versus looking for a handout for those with the same oppresses,” Sekou said.

Community members said they aren’t looking for sympathy, but they just want to create solutions.

“It's not just police brutality in the physical sense, but it's also mental, economic and social. So that in itself has created problems here in the community, particularly in the south,” James Evan Muhammad, of Black Educators for Justice and Unity. “Many of the pastors, many of the churches, are tied up to the mayor’s office and the City Council. Faith-based initiatives and getting faith-based money, so they're not going to jeopardize losing that funding and their money by coming out and standing up for the people on issues that are controversial that call the mayor, the sheriff and the district attorney to the table.”

Attorneys for the Bing family and the organizations will be rallying at noon Saturday at the intersection of Liberty and 9th streets. News4Jax was told the Bing family will have a report on their independent investigation of the shooting of their son.

Last month, Sheriff Mike Williams held a news conference with Curry to promote unity in the community and ask for time to finish the investigation into the deadly shooting of Bing.