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Jacksonville sheriff, fire chief team up for State of Public Safety meeting

Mental health, body cameras, opioid epidemic discussed

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mental Health, the opioid epidemic, and police body cameras were some of the topics discussed during the State of the Public Safety meeting Thursday night at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

About two dozen Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce members, Sheriff Mike Williams and Fire Chief Kurtis Wilson explained what their departments are doing the keep people safe and what they plan to do.

One of the topics that came up early in the discussion was body cameras. JSO received a $1 million grant from the Department of Justice to purchase body cameras for officers, but Williams said the first wave of cameras assigned to officers won’t happen until October.

As for the rest of the force:

"It may take three years because of budget constraints to get all the cameras on the streets. We’re looking at two-hundred to two-hundred-fifty per quarter and we’re still working on the logistics," Williams said.

Another public safety topic that came up in the meeting was mental health.

“Unfortunately, that usually lands in the lap of law enforcement," Williams said referring to mental health. "There’s not enough training in the world that a police officer can get to deal with that issue, or at least the root causes of it.”

An issue both police and emergency responders are dealing with is the opioid epidemic.

Chief Wilson says a lot of emergency crews are going through "compassion fatigue" from rescuing the same overdose patient repeatedly.

“We’ve got crews out there and stories out there where they’re going to these folks twice a day, three times a day, four times a week," Wilson said. "So, managing compassion fatigue where they say, 'No matter what I do, I’m not doing anything for this patient,' is real."

According to Sheriff Williams, increased police presence in some of the more troubled neighborhoods have helped- along with resources like ShotSpotter, National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN), and the upcoming Real Time Crime Center.

BUT THERE ARE CHALLENGES: Less than quarter of Jacksonville's 2018 murders solved

Currently, there are at least 65 classified murders in the city from this year alone. Of those 65, 14 have been cleared.

The current proposed budget calls for 20 additional JSO officers and a back-up 911 center.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.

Award-winning broadcast and multimedia journalist with 20 years experience.