JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A call for reform at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
A critical report called “Safer Together” spells out what the authors say are problems with the relationship between Black residents in Jacksonville and JSO. The report calls for the community to have more oversight of the Sheriff’s Office and several city council members addressed the report on Monday night.
There have been harsh words for JSO in past years when it comes to policing in minority neighborhoods. That was brought to light in the Black Lives Matter protests over a year ago in downtown Jacksonville. It is also echoed by community groups lashing out at JSO when there are police-involved shootings.
That was the reason behind the yearlong Safer Together workshops organized by the city council. Some of those findings from the Safer Together report that came out of those workshops spell out the problems. For example, the report blasts the sheriff’s office and the media for overreacting to this past summer’s Orange Crush festival at the beach.
Here is what one of the authors of the report, Dr. Tammy Hodo, told the council last month.
“Orange Crush was labeled as a black beach weekend and we put this in our report. There were 100 inmates moved from the county to St. Johns County or Flagler County to make way for this black beach weekend. We don’t see that when we have 20,000 people come for the Florida-Georgia game. The demographic is different,” Hodo said.
That was included in the report, but there is much more.
News4Jax spoke with councilwoman Joyce Morgan about that and how the report slams the sheriff’s office suggesting there are race-related issues.
“Of course it’s a concern and this is one of the reasons why we’ve had all these workshops so we can bring people together so they can talk about it,” Morgan said.
One of the most controversial proposals is a citizen review board.
The report suggests forming it to help investigate police-involved shootings in Jacksonville. We do know it’s something the sheriff’s office has been opposed to in the past. Community groups like the Northside Coalition have been pushing for the review board for years.
The city council will be taking up legislation again to consider the process but it would not happen anytime soon.
“There was actually a lot more than just the citizen’s board, but when something sticks out like that you have to recognize it,” Morgan said.
News4Jax attended a public meeting between two city council members Monday who both agree citizens should be a part of a review process but can’t decide which process is right for Jacksonville.
One city council member is recommending a policy review board that looks at police policies and makes a determination of what policies should stay and what should go when it comes to the use of force.
The other council member is trying to decide if a policy review board is more appropriate than a citizen review board that takes part in the investigation into allegations of excessive force.
““We talk about ongoing training. We talk about the number of co-responders to be active in that regard. An opportunity to take a look at the budget to see if we can properly reallocate the funds to do the kind of work were presently not doing,” said councilman Michael Boylan.
Both believe either board should be occupied by citizens.
“I like the fact that Orlando is doing it. I like the fact that St. Petersburg is doing already doing this,” Morgan said. “We really want to do something because Jacksonville is the Bold City of the South, so let’s be bold and do what we need to do for our constituents.”
Several of the people who spoke during the public comment section of the meeting are in strong favor of the citizen review board and were upset over the council members scheduling more meetings to decide which route to take on a review board. Those meetings will be in October and December.
In the meantime, the Fraternal Order of Police said they support the idea of a policy review board but can’t get behind a citizen review board.
“These review boards operate off of emotion and political agendas and they all attack our members,” FOP Vice President Randy Reaves said.
News4Jax wanted to ask Sheriff Mike Williams about that on Monday but he declined an interview and in a statement said:
“The report has not yet been introduced publicly. [Monday’s] meeting will serve as that induction...We also understand there is to be certain recommendations included within the report and we will have staff present to work with the committee.”
Sheriff Williams will meet with councilwoman Morgan later this week the discuss the outcome of Monday’s meeting.
News4Jax also reached out to most of those running for Jacksonville Sheriff in 2023.
Lakesha Burton who was one of the first to announce said she is waiting to hear what Willaims will say about the reports.
Wayne Clark who is also a candidate believes there could be a compromise regarding a citizen review board.
All of this is likely to be debated in the upcoming election two years from now.