Tuesday marks one year since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide movement to change law enforcement tactics and increase accountability, but the movement has brought different results in different parts of the country.
In Jacksonville and across Florida, there have been changes as well as a lot of debate. In the months following Floyd’s death after much public outcry, State Attorney Melissa Nelson sped up the process of releasing body-worn camera footage to the public.
“The reason why they did it is because of the public outcry. It wasn’t just because they thought it would be a great idea at that particular time,” said News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson. “They were basically saying, ‘Why are you holding it so long? If you can release it this quick now, why were you holding it so long then?’”
There have also been numerous debates at the state level. One includes Marsy’s Law, an amendment passed in 2018 to the state Constitution that protects victims of crimes from having their names released publicly. Now, police unions are pushing for the identities of all officers who were assaulted in any body-worn camera video released to be protected under Marsy’s Law. Civil rights activists have raised concerns this limits transparency. That issue is being litigated right now. Recently, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office cited Marsy’s Law when body-worn camera video was released and two officer’s images were blurred in the video.
There is also the debate over House Bill 1, often referred to as HB 1. The so-called anti-riot bill, which was signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, was designed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature to increases penalties for crimes during a violent protest. Some civil rights activists have voice concerns that it’s intended to intimidate protesters from exercising their right to free speech.
“Clearly there’s a group in the state Legislature that felt they were about to lose power,” said state Rep. Angie Nixon in April after the law passed.
Local agencies News4Jax spoke with like the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said they are always working to adapt and update policing policies as needed.
“Our industry is ever-evolving. A good, professional police department is always moving forward and always evolving,” said Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook.
When asked, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office told News4Jax it respectfully declined to comment.