JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been awarded a $5 million grant from the Department of Justice to hire 40 full-time officers.
The grant, announced this week by the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, was part of $20.8 million in funding awarded to 14 agencies in the Middle District of Florida.
Jacksonville got the biggest chunk of the pot, followed by Pasco County ($3.75 million for 30 officers), St. Petersburg ($3.12 million for 25 officers) and Orange County ($2.5 million for 20 officers).
To be awarded funding, applicants for the COPS Hiring Program had to identify a specific crime problem in their community and give an explanation for how the funding would be used to combat that issue through policing.
The release from the DOJ did not indicate what JSO focused on in its bid for funding or how it plans to spend the $5 million.
“Community policing is an effective tool in reducing crime in our neighborhoods, building relationships of mutual trust and accountability, and implementing successful prevention and intervention strategies,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “We are eager to continue working with our partner agencies, our community, and our citizens in this collective problem-solving strategy to improve public safety.”
The announcement of the grants, which have been in the works for months, come as many across the nation and in Jacksonville are calling on more accountable from their police departments.
Some vocal activists have been demanding the release of body camera footage from police-involved shootings in Jacksonville.
Sheriff Mike Williams said Thursday that the body camera technology is still new to JSO and the department is always in a “posture of learning.”
“It’s a new piece of evidence in these cases, so we’re going to always continue to evaluate with the State Attorney’s Office, with other players in that conversation, when is the earliest time in the process that we can release (the footage)?" Wiliams said. “And, again, those conversations were ongoing before this weekend.”
Williams was referring to protests in Downtown Jacksonville over the weekend that turned violent.
Williams said when it comes to body cameras, JSO wants a process that works for the legal system and for the community.