Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to receive nearly $1M grant for body cameras

JSO among 7 agencies to get grant money from US Department of Justice

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office will receive a nearly $1 million grant for police body cameras next year, the agency announced Monday.

The Sheriff's Office said it is one of seven "extra-large agencies" to receive the one-time grant of $997,956 from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Administration.

“To be recognized by the federal government with this award, the largest of any of those in this category at this time, is a testament to the diligent work we are doing in our technical pilot; policy development; and plans for officer training, when we select the best device for our needs,” Sheriff Mike Williams said in a news release.

READ: DOJ grant awarded to JSO for body cameras

With a number of recent high-profile cases, the call for increased transparency at JSO has grown louder. Williams promised in recent months that officers would be wearing body cameras by next year, saying it would increase civility and accountability.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the grant is a huge deal. 

"This is major," he said. "To be able to monitor and see exactly what goes on, not just in the high profile cases. I mean, we see it a lot in police shootings, but in other cases. Sometimes it’s just citizen contact."

Smith, who spent 26 years as an officer with JSO, said the grant of nearly $1 million from the Department of Justice will be enough to get the program off the ground.

"The Department of Justice, they’ll monitor that. They assist the agencies with training, and so many other things," Smith said. "They’ll make sure that the million dollars is spent toward the body-worn camera program."

In the end, Smith said, more funding will be needed to fully execute a body camera program at JSO. But for now, Jacksonville finds itself in a very good position.

"Of the 260 agencies that received grants, Jacksonville received the highest amount, which means they must’ve put together a very good group of people to apply for this grant and write the policy," Smith said. 

The second of three camera testing periods will begin next month, according to JSO. A select group of officers has been testing out some of the cameras on the job, as part of the application for the grant. 

The Sheriff's Office said its goal is to begin purchasing the cameras it needs and training its more than 1,750 officers on them late next year.