Law enforcement officers in Northeast Florida and across the country are on high alert after the killing of five officers during a demonstration in Dallas and the fatal shooting of three officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The Jacksonville, St. Johns County and Clay County sheriff’s offices said they’re trying to learn from the tragedies to better protect officers and deputies and better serve the community.
The agencies also said they’re aware of the angst in the country and are keeping that in mind going forward, and changing their tactics when it comes to responding to calls and dealing with situations safely.
“We are simply responding to what society is putting out. There is no movement to militarize law enforcement. We are a civilian law enforcement agency. I have always been and I think we will continue to do that. But that doesn’t mean the tactics and/or equipment won’t change, given some of the nuances that are thrown at law enforcement,” SJCSO Public Information Officer Chuck Mulligan said. “Law enforcement officers are talking, certainly. They have each other's backs and so, if we hear a call that comes out it sounds a little beyond the norm, we may send additional officers, they may come from different routes. There's different things that we would do, but of course we don't discuss open tactics that we would use in order to protect ourselves.”
Mulligan said he hasn’t seen any specific anger or anxiety aimed toward deputies in St. Johns County as a result of things happening nationwide. But he said things are changing in the country, which means they must remain a step ahead.
“We’re out there and we drive car that are unmistakable. We wear clothing that is unmistakable. So you can’t really hide, if you will, your presence. And really, officer presence is one of the things that alleviates most disturbances. Just when we show up, everything calms down. We are not seeing that currently and there seems to be a lot more angst going on about our existence,” Mulligan said.
Mulligan said what’s happened in Baton Rouge and Dallas has caused deputies to be extremely vigilant -- talking to each other and voicing any concerns that they may have about a certain call. Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the JSO is encouraging that as well.
“Really reminding officers to not forget the fundamentals of officer safety. Don’t get caught up in the day, don’t get in too much of a hurry and if you need help, ask for it. That’s a function of them looking out for each other and we’ve been talking about that all week,” Williams said.
Sunday was a very tough for law enforcement officers, William said, and his heart goes out to the men who lost their lives and their families. He said it’s just another reminder to officers on the Jacksonville streets to keep an eye on each other and have each other’s backs.
Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler said that the agency reviewing their agency’s tactics, policies and equipment because of the recent events targeting law enforcement.
JSO tweeted Monday, reminding people about its Citizen's Police Academy, which is a way for people to learn how each division in the agency operates, including specialized units like the bomb squad, SWAT team and narcotics unit. The 12-week course taught by JSO employees will meet from 6-9 p.m. once a week.
The fall session is scheduled to begin Sept. 15 and the JSO will be accepting applications until Aug. 1.