JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –
The relationship between the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the city's African-American community has a storied history.
A recently published Florida Times-Union investigation revealed African-Americans living in low-income neighborhoods were issued more jaywalking tickets than anywhere else in the city.
This published data has brought the tense relationship back into the forefront of racial issues in Jacksonville.
The Sheriff’s Office is taking steps to keep officers up to date with diversity training.
According to Sheriff Mike Williams diversity training is not new and the sheriff says officers need a refresher. He wants his officers to get more training, and to go further, to sit down with the community as well.
This week 150 Jacksonville sheriff's officers will receive more diversity training specifically designed to improve the relationship between police and the city's African-American community.
The Sheriff’s office plan is to have officer’s undergo a training seminar that will be led by a team from Bethune-Cookman University. The first training session will include 150 JSO officers and about the same number of people from the community and management will participate.
Williams says he believes his office is taking a positive step to bridge the racial divide.
Cheryl Gonzalez, chief diversity officer at the University of North Florida states that "we as a community have to look for the type of culture that is being created in a police organization and leadership is important.”
According to News4JAX records, in the past five years there have been 45 incidents in which police shot someone. In those cases, 33 of the people shot were African-American and 12 were white. Thirty percent of Jacksonville's population is African-American yet blacks make up 73 percent of those shot by police.
Gonzalez states that Jacksonville is “large and that there is are so many ethnic groups in our community and that there is a need for new systems in policing methods.” Gonzalez would like to see a more holistic approach to policing.
The cost is about $23,500 and involves 52 hours of training. Williams said the training will be expanded to more officers and staff members.
The sheriff said the program is to help both sides communicate and find out what is actually happening on the streets and why.