Law enforcement officers work to improve relations with community

Federal, state, local law enforcement attend panel in Sawgrass


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As tensions between police and the community seem to be at an all-time high across the country, law enforcement officers attended the FBI's National Academy Association's training conference in Sawgrass this week to discuss how law enforcement is concerned about the future and how to keep the peace.

The discussion was held after two men were shot by officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Federal, state and local agencies and News4Jax attended the conference, spending more than two hours talking with police about ways to better communicate and work together for the good of the community.

"It's a scary time for law enforcement. Probably one of the most dangerous periods in my long career," Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler said.

Beseler has been on the job for decades now and said he has never seen as bad as it is now; where police are targets for criticism and violence.

St. Augustine Beach police Chief Rob Hardwick said he trains his officers to be kind, courteous and patient to cut down on the tension between police and the community.

"We police above and beyond what the expectations and standards are,” Hardwick said. “I expect a lot from my men and women."

Chief Cecil Smith of the Sanford Police Department is familiar with protests being a daily occurrence after he took over the SPD in the height of the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman controversy.

"The number of people who came into our town to rally and protest, and you know we have 20-plus thousand people in our community, we had not one arrest," Smith said.

He attended the conference to explain how he makes sure to work hard to bridge the gap between racial tensions and those who don’t trust police.

"I hope that we can find some answers, some common ground because we can't go on killing people. We just can't keep doing that," Beseler said.

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