JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Several Northeast Florida law enforcement agencies are ready to help with security at the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville.
This comes after Sheriff Mike Williams said Monday that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office wasn’t prepared to provide enough security for the convention in August due to the lack of clear plans, inadequate funding and an insufficient amount of law enforcement personnel to handle the delegates, visitors and potential protesters.
“With a growing list of challenges -- be it financial, with communication, with the timeline -- I cannot say with confidence that this event or our community will not be at risk,” Williams said.
The sheriff of Jacksonville said key resources needed to keep the community safe have not been attained.
“We’ve only been able to pull together about 25% of what we requested. Some of this is due to concerns over reimbursement, while additional issues are related to the pandemic that we’re facing today,” Williams said.
Hours after Williams’ announcement, area law enforcement agencies, including the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, offered to assist.
“All of the Florida sheriffs are members of what is called a Florida Sheriffs Task Force, and we have received the request through the Florida Sheriffs Task Force to assist Sheriff Williams with the Republican National Convention,” said Col. Joseph Wells, chief deputy with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.
Wells said the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office has up to 25 deputies ready to step in, and the deputies are prepared to provide a range of services during the convention.
“Some of these may be for motorcycle deputies, so obviously those would be qualified in that. He may have some requests for K-9 units, that type of assistance, so it just depends on exactly how he plans to use the deputies,” Wells said.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said it will be providing 40 deputies.
The Bradford County Sheriff’s Office plans to send six to 10 deputies.
The sheriffs’ offices in Nassau, Baker and Columbia counties said they will provide help if needed.
Officials with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said they’re not sure whether the agency will be assisting considering the county will be busy with an influx of people staying at hotels and resorts the week of the convention.
Officials with the Neptune Beach Police Department said the agency is not directly involved with the RNC manpower. They said they are expecting to see an increase in people at the beaches and have requested mutual aid from outside agencies like the Ocala Police Department.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said since there are also events being held outside during the convention, it’s going to require more officers. He said manpower would need to be increased by roughly 50%.
It was only announced last month that Jacksonville will be hosting the convention, which will begin in fewer than 40 days. Williams said an event like the RNC typically takes 18 months to plan.
Tampa, which hosted the RNC in 2012, said it took about 18 months to figure out the security plan, which was a multiagency apparatus consisting of the FBI and surrounding agencies.