JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The recent protests in Jacksonville have sparked new discussions about Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office bodycam footage.
Activists want footage from all Jacksonville police-involved shootings released immediately calling it an agreement that has been broken.
“The Sheriff promised us that body cam policy would be based on civil rights principals,” said Ben Frazier, leader of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville.
Frazier said police body cameras are not being used transparently.
Councilman Garrett Dennis agrees.
Dennis plans to write a bill that could make it law to release JSO body camera footage if he doesn’t run into any legal roadblocks.
Chanting protesters in Jacksonville over the weekend were also asking for more transparency from the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office.
JSO launched its body camera pilot program in November 2018.
News4Jax records show that since then, there have been 21 police-involved shootings in which 23 people have been shot. Not all of the officers involved were wearing body cams.
“They are hindering the public’s right to know and that is wrong,” Frazier said.
Frazier said he is disappointed that the footage has not been released.
“We never thought for one moment that [Sheriff Mike Williams] would get these body cameras and not release the footage after three years based that age-old axiom of an ‘investigation in process.’ Hogwash,” Frazier said.
The State Attorney’s Office has ruled that four of the 21 officer-involved shootings in Jacksonville were justifiable. Of those four, only one officer was wearing a body camera. That was Officer Tyler Landreville when he shot and killed Frankie Feliciano in July 2019. The JSO Response to Resistance Board has yet to sign off on that shooting.
If it does, it would be the first body camera in a police shooting that could be cleared for release.
“Why wouldn’t you want the footage released?” Dennis said. “I made a formal request to the Office of General Counsel Jason Gabriel to look into the legality of the City Council passing a law requiring the Sheriff’s Office to release body camera footage.”
Recent protests have also called for the release of body camera footage following the officer-involved shooting of Jamee Johnson last year.
Johnson, a 22-year-old Florida A&M student, was shot and killed by a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office deputy during a traffic stop in Dec. 2019. JSO said Johnson resisted arrest during the traffic stop in Jacksonville’s Tallyrand area. Following his death, Johnson’s family and activist groups have called for the release of body camera footage of the incident, a request that was denied by the State Attorney’s Office. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in February requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement review the use of deadly force in the incident.
On Monday, News4Jax asked Mayor Lenny Curry by phone if he would support the release of JSO bodycam footage.
“I would be more than happy to and look forward to sitting down with our Sheriff and folks that want their voices to be heard on this and any other issue,” Curry said.
The call by protesters around the country to see body camera footage is happening at a time when many are asking for more transparency to build more trust in the community.
Recently, Atlanta police officers were fired after body camera video showed their misconduct. And in Daytona Beach body cam video was released after an incident.
Locally every county is different. Law enforcement officers in Nassau County, Clay County and St. Johns County do not wear body cameras. Deputies with the Flagler County do wear body cameras.
News4Jax reached out to Sheriff Mike Williams to ask about body cameras but he was not available for an interview.
News4Jax asked Sheriff Mike Williams earlier this year about body camera footage, and Williams said the video is treated as evidence, and will eventually be released.
“All of that process is an internal investigation and it’s protected by state law,” Williams said. “So we can’t release that at that point. At the end of that investigation, all of that footage will become public record.”
The State Attorney’s Office on Monday issued a statement on officer-involved shootings: