JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With a recent spree of deadly violence in Jacksonville, some are calling for more officers on the city's streets.
It's become increasingly difficult to tell what's true about the law enforcement picture in Jacksonville, with candidates for sheriff and mayor claiming different scenarios about how many Jacksonville sheriff's officers are on the streets. So, on Tuesday, News4Jax looked at the numbers and found there are actually 141 more officers patrolling Jacksonville currently than about 3 ½ years ago.
The violence in Jacksonville is a political issue. Some state lawmakers said Monday that they want to see the Florida Highway Patrol and the National Guard help patrol neighborhoods in Jacksonville, but the current city administration says no to that. Over the weekend, Jimmy Hill, Republican candidate for mayor, said because of retirement and other factors, there are actually fewer officers now than when the sheriff and the mayor took office. News4Jax fact-checked that and found that is not the case -- there are more officers.
According to numbers from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, there are currently 1,707 sworn officers on the streets of Jacksonville. In comparison, there were 1,566 officers in July 2015 -- the same month Sheriff Mike Williams and Mayor Lenny Curry took office.
Curry said they have funded 180 new police positions since he was elected. Right now, there are a total of 1,786 sworn officer positions with JSO, 79 of which are vacant and waiting to be filled.
When asked whether JSO has enough officers, Steve Zona, president of the Jacksonville chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the numbers are growing, but there should be more.
"We are short. We’re short probably in the neighborhood of 300 to 400 police officers, but I do feel like the progress we are making after being neglected for a decade," he said. "The process we are making is tremendous."
There have been a substantial number of retirements because of a special program for officers known as DROP, which is part of the reason why there are 79 current vacancies. In 2015, there were 38.
News4Jax asked Curry on Tuesday whether the city can expect to see more new officers this year.
"As Mike and I sit down in this budget cycle, if he tells me he needs more police officers, I will fund them," the mayor said. "Technologies, police officers, whatever law enforcement needs to do their jobs -- I am all in."
Right now, there are more officers set to be hired. About 120 JSO recruits at the training academy -- all set to graduate at various times this year.
News4Jax spoke with Hill late Tuesday afternoon about the comment he made over the weekend. The mayoral candidate said he is checking his numbers and said the attrition rate among JSO officers is a problem with people leaving before replacements can be hired.