Push made for police accountability in Jacksonville

Group believes officers abusing power, citizens review board needed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Organizers from various community action groups met Thursday night to form a group called the Jacksonville Police Accountability Council.

The idea comes in the wake of two high-profile encounters with police that were caught on camera.

The two incidents include the arrest of five protesters and the citation of a man who believes he was cited for walking while black.

“There’s good officers and there’s bad officers, but even if you just get pulled over driving, you never know what’s going to happen, or even pulled over walking -- you never know what’s going to happen,” Devonte Shipman said.

In Shipman’s case, he was cited for jaywalking and walking in public without a driver’s license. The latter charge was dropped, but his recorded encounter with the officer went viral on social media.

RELATED: Man records his heated debate with officer over crosswalk citation | Activist group accuses officer of racial profiling in crosswalk confrontation

“I feel it was walking while black, but it’s also what the officer had in mind. He figured he had criminal on hand, which he didn’t,” Shipman said.

Several months earlier, Connell Crooms was one of five protesters arrested following an altercation with a supporter of President Donald Trump at Hemming Plaza. He said he was manhandled by officers before being cuffed and carted off to jail.

“It’s just personal for me because I believe the only way to get true justice is getting community control of the police, because there is no other way I will ever feel satisfied with any justice the system offers, so this is really the best way we can get the justice we deserve,” Crooms said.

RELATED: Charges dropped against 2 Hemming Park protesters

The State Attorney's Office has since dropped charges against Crooms and another protester, and reduced the charges for the three others.

Shipman, Crooms and others said they feel police are abusing their power are calling for a Jacksonville Police Accountability Council, or JPAC. The proposal calls for review board made up of citizens who investigate allegations of police harassment and brutality.

“We want them to be elected from each district, and they can’t have any connection to the cops," Christina Kittle, one of the five protesters, said. "They can’t be ex-cops, married to cops, or anything like that.”

Shortly after he was elected in 2015, Sheriff Mike Williams established a Commission on Progress to look over JSO procedures and make recommendations, which could include a review board.

About the Author: