JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council is looking at how much money it should give the Sheriff’s Office.
Thursday was the first day of budget hearings as the council looks at how to spend taxpayer dollars this year.
There has been a call nationwide to defund police, but right now, that is not happening in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office makes up the largest portion of the budget.
Sheriff Mike Williams on Thursday talked to the council about his plans. The sheriff’s budget is about $3 million more this year than last. He was questioned about the increase and the Sheriff’s Office itself.
Williams said there are actually fewer police officers than 10 years ago. Given the recent protests, the sheriff was asked how many African Americans are on the force.
“Our police officers numbers in 2015, we had about 9% of our police officers (who) were African American. We made a significant effort in hiring through diversity, and today, we sit at just under 20% of our sworn police force is actually African American, and a little bit more when you talk about women and minorities overall,” the sheriff said.
African Americans make up about 31% of the Jacksonville population. The sheriff told council members he is actively working on recruiting mintories, and as a result of the recent protests, the sheriff also told the council that he is talking with local activists.
“Something positive has happened in just the last few weeks. We’ve actually gotten together with, at their request, the NAACP, the Northside Coalition and several other groups. They put together a letter for us. I say us — the state attorney is involved and the mayor’s office is involved in it. All of the issues are kind of in one spot, with all groups represented at the table. We’re in the process of starting those conversations. We answered the letter and now we’re going to pick the top two or three issues we want to work on first,” Williams said. “Really, really productive conversations in the last several weeks.”
Williams said one of the biggest problems that he is having is getting staff for the jail, as there is a shortage.
The sheriff was also asked about officers in schools. He is still supplying some officers but is working with the Duval County School Board to change that.