Attorney: Disbanding Jacksonville’s police force will never occur

The talk of defunding police departments across the U.S. is gaining a lot of attention. Could that happen here in Jacksonville?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The talk of defunding police departments across the United States -- and in the case of Minneapolis police, disbanding the department -- is gaining a lot of traction in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

On Sunday, a majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said they support disbanding the city’s police department.

Seven years ago, Camden, New Jersey, disbanded its police department because of corruption and replaced the department with a new one.

But according to Randy Reep, a former prosecutor turned defense attorney, that will never happen in Jacksonville.

“As a practical matter, we don’t have an ancillary police force here in Jacksonville. We are a unified city/county government, so there’s only one police department to govern Jacksonville," Reep said. “That’s why a disbanding will never occur.”

The other topic gaining traction across the U.S. is defunding police departments and using that money to pay for social programs in the poorest areas. But Reep said reallocating that money would hurt existing local programs tied to law enforcement.

“That is one of my concerns of the unintended consequences," Reep said. “Take mental health as an example. That is a place that doesn’t have enough funding, but there are mental health court systems in our courthouse right across the street. If we start removing money, you are still going to need baseline law enforcement work.”

Steve Zona, president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, said it’s unfair to take money away from law enforcement as punishment for social economic issues in society that have nothing to do with police officers.

“You can’t blame law enforcement for all the societal problems that are occurring right now. They’re not mutually exclusive. We can talk about them at the same time, have an honest discussion about policing, look at law enforcement if you want to. But if you want to fund those issues, and some are important, then find a funding for that and don’t take away from public safety," Zona said.

Reep also said defunding police means taking away money used for proper police training. Without proper training, he said, there could be more costly mistakes by police.

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