JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Race relations was the topic Wednesday night at a town hall meeting in Jacksonville on the Rob Nelson Live talk show, which was livestreamed across several social media platforms.
This discussion about race comes after a Black man was shot and killed by police in Philadelphia. Wednesday night’s conversation centered on race relations between the Black community and police.
“A lot of the people living in the black community that react this way, we’re trained to act the way we act because the surrounding we live in, just the way the police officer is trained that if you are in fear of your life, you are supposed to shoot to kill," one person said to the room.
Current and former police officers who are white listened to the comments from members of the Black community and made statements to support why certain situations, such as a knife-wielding man, turns into justifiable police use of deadly force.
“Science shows that if you’re within 20 feet of a person and you have a knife out, that person will cut you before you can shoot them," said Steve Zona, president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, a former Jacksonville police officer, attended the meeting and spoke about the use of deadly force.
“You don’t pull your Taser out when someone can kill you with a knife," he said. "That’s not going to happen.”
Then the conversation about race shifted to the hiring of Black police officers.
“To think that the problem will be resolved by putting black officers in communities, you’re fooling yourselves," one person said during the meeting. "I was a Black officer for 27 years, and the majority of the work I did was in the Black community. I had handcuffs stuck through my hands because I was trying to be nice to someone with a mental condition when I probably should have taken him down.”
Overall, people who attended the meeting were happy to be a part of an open dialog, that at times was uncomfortable for some.
“Without talking about it, there’s never going to be any change," said Shawn Wilson, who attended.
The organizer of the meeting said he wanted to have the discussion because he believes politics are playing a major role in racial division.
In the video below, News4Jax anchor Kent Justice spoke with Nelson before the Wednesday night discussion.