JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville’s police union is weighing in on the decision by State Attorney Melissa Nelson to release body camera video from police shootings within 30 days.
Community members are also talking about what they are seeing, particularly with a video released Tuesday that shows a knife-wielding woman stabbing an officer in April. The woman — 29-year-old Leah Baker, whose family said she had mental health issues — was killed by police.
It was the latest video released by the State Attorney’s Office, but six others are expected to be released in the near future. That has some wondering if the public is ready to view these dramatic videos.
Two other body camera videos were recently released. One shows police shooting and killing a man who jumped back into his car during a traffic stop and pressed his foot to the accelerator as an officer hung on. Another video was released of a man who was shot and killed by police after threatening a man in a wheelchair by holding a knife to his throat.
The quick release of the videos came about as a result of protests and meetings by various groups demanding change.
On Wednesday, News4Jax spoke with Steve Zona, president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, about the new body camera policy. He said they have always supported getting the videos out in a timely manner and this should give people a better perspective of police work.
“There is no such thing as a routine call. If you see that officer in that video that was released, all she was doing was knocking on the door, and you see how that transpired — the door opened and out came somebody with a knife,” Zona said. “That’s every day. That’s every call a police officer goes on.”
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson agrees.
“I think it allows for 100% transparency on every aspect of what an officer is doing. You know, the community, the public has been calling for bodycams and review boards, citizens review boards and things of that nature,” Jefferson said. “This is a step in the right direction — one, by having these body cams, and two, by releasing them in a timely manner.”
Comments on News4Jax.com from many people have gone in different directions, with some saying the quick release is beneficial to the pubic to others saying it’s only going to hurt families involved.
As for the union, Zona said he believes the quick release will tell a different story for the officers involved and critics of the officers’ actions should have to answer to their claims
“Our police officers now get drug through the mud for a year and a half. Sometimes it will be shorter now and then. When this gets released and the investigation is shown they acted properly, nobody can go back and undo what has happened to those police officers,” Zona said.
More meetings are scheduled for this month, and the sheriff has said this process is evolving.