Jacksonville sheriff’s $513M budget proposal includes $1.2M for cybersecurity

Sheriff Williams requesting $29M increase from last year’s budget

Sheriff Williams requesting $29M increase from last year’s budget.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Attempted cyberattacks against the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office happen thousands of times each week, according to the sheriff.

That alarming revelation came to light Thursday as Sheriff Mike Williams laid out his budget to the mayor’s office. The sheriff is asking for more than $513 million, $1.2 million of which would go toward upgrading computers to protect against ransomware attacks.

According to the sheriff, none of the attacks have been successful. But he said they keep trying with different schemes.

“The attempts in our system in a given week is thousands and thousands,” Williams said. “I think that’s a surprise to most people, and we have to fend those off.”

He added their computers store vital police materials and court records. Willaims said that if those were compromised, it would cause serious problems. The sheriff said the money from the city would allow JSO to shore up its computer systems and take steps to keep cyberattacks from happening.

Cybersecurity is only one area the sheriff is looking to improve. Williams is also asking for $29 million more than last year’s budget to make some improvements in the agency. Those include more changes for the Homeland Security division of JSO, $5 million to pay overtime work by JSO officers and more money for the Duval County jail. Currently, there is a problem with vacancies at the jail, with about 100 correction officers positions that are open. And, as in past years, there’s a request for more police officers on the street.

“We got approved for 40 officers in the COPS Grant,” Williams said. “That is something the Department of Justice will pay for three years, and we pick up the salaries after that.”

One area that could see a cutback is the school guardian program. Currently, there are about 100 JSO officers at Duval County public and charter schools. Next year, that number could drop to about 60. Those officers will return to the street, leaving the schools to hire more security.

This is all part of next year’s city budget process. Each department and agency is presenting its wishlist of sorts to the mayor’s office, which will draft a budget proposal for the Jacksonville City Council to approve in the fall. The mayor’s office said it has more money to work with this year given that more people are moving to the area and property values have increased. The mayor’s staff said that right now, there is no talk of any property tax increase.

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Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.