Northside Coalition calls for citizen review board

Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police president: ‘We (FOP) oppose them’

Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police president: ‘We (FOP) oppose them.’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s another call for a citizen review board to oversee police shootings and actions by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

The Northside Coalition has been very vocal in the past about wanting to have an independent group to look at officers’ actions.

According to News4Jax records, there have been five police-involved shootings in Jacksonville this year, three of which were deadly. Each of these cases is being reviewed by the State Attorney’s Office, and, so far, no officers have been found at fault.

Cases like these are also reviewed by the Sheriff’s Office to see if policy was followed. That raises concerns by some, including local activist Ben Frazier, of the Northside Coalition, who said that investigations should be handled by an independent or outside group.

“We need to stop allowing them to investigate themselves. This is the fox guarding the henhouse,” Frazier said

In a statement, the Northside Coalition said it’s concerned about police-involved shootings and excessive use of force.

“Bottom line here is that these internal investigations by JSO have got to go,” Frazier said.

The idea of a citizen review board is not new. It’s been talked about for decades in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams has not supported it in the past. News4Jax asked to talk with him on Wednesday, but his office said he has no “new” response.

It was this time last year when Williams was on “The Morning Show” and took questions from News4Jax anchors about a review board. At that time, he emphasized that the investigations are confidential until the end and all of the information as to what happened is then made available

“I think what you’re seeing here is a lack of trust in the system so we all have to work hard to make sure we are putting the right information out and we are working every day to build trust,” Williams said in June 2020.

Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona told News4Jax on Wednesday: “Our position of civilian review boards has not changed. We (FOP) oppose them because they operate on emotions, agendas and politics. We have no issue with investigations that are conducted based on facts and evidence, meaning any law enforcement agency or the State Attorney’s Office.”

Currently, a group of City Council members and public leaders, known as Safer Together, is looking into improving relations with JSO. The group has been discussing some type of citizen board. It would take City Council approval to make the change. Safer Together’s report is expected as early as next week.

It’s not known what form the review board could take. Similar boards are in other Florida cities like Tampa and Orlando.

About the Author:

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