JSO holds 1st of 6 town hall meetings concerning body cameras

Body cameras will soon be given to every JSO officer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday night held the first of six town hall meetings to get the community's input on body cameras, which will soon be given to every officer.

There wasn’t any opposition from the public to having officers wear body cameras while they are doing their jobs.

But instead, the people who showed up at Edward Waters College had questions about the policies
that will be put in place.

Some people carried signs demanding transparency from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and were concerned about how body cameras will be used on a day-to-day basis by police.

Will officers have access to the footage before they file a police report? Will officers be able to turn the cameras on and off by themselves? They are just two of the questions for which the public wanted answers.

"Will you agree to enforce strict disciplinary protocols for all violations? Will you make body cameras available to the public -- to us and the press -- upon request?” one person in attendance asked.

"How do people respond to body cameras?" another asked. "When do we get to review the body cameras?”

"They've been working on this for over a year, developing policy and trying to figure out which are the best body cams that they can get for the money," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst.

Smith, who was an officer with JSO for more than two decades, said hearing concerns from people in the community will help police narrow down a policy.

"There are some things which could be added to the policy. The policy can always be changed. It is not the official policy right now," Smith said.

In the past, the Sheriff's Office has faced criticism, especially concerning the use of deadly force and most notably, in the case of last year's shooting of Vernell Bing Jr. Police said he was killed after crashing a stolen car into a JSO cruiser. They also said Bing wasn't armed.

Tuesday's meeting was the first of six public meetings organized by Sheriff Mike Williams, designed to inform as many citizens as possible about the research that is being done by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The agency is still ironing out the details as to which cameras they’ll purchase, how they’ll store the video files and when the body cameras will hit the streets.

"Because of the recent shootings and killings nationwide, this would bring a level of transparency on both ends,” said Alpha Gains, of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville.

The remaining five town hall meetings will be held:

  • 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 14 at the FSCJ North Campus, 4501 Capper Road, Zeke Bryant Auditorium
  • 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, FSCJ South Campus, 11901 Beach Blvd., Wilson Center -- Lakeside Room
  • 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 24, 2017, FSCJ Kent Campus, 3939 Roosevelt Blvd., Large Auditorium -- F128
  • 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 11, 2017, FSCJ Downtown Campus, 101 W. State St., Large Auditorium -- A106B
  • 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 18, 2017, FSCJ Deerwood Campus, 9911 Old Baymeadows Road, Room B1204

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