Councilmember Boylan quits committee aimed at improving police, community relations

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a surprise move, Jacksonville City Councilman Michael Boylan on Monday announced his resignation as Vice-Chair of the Safer Together Committee.

In a letter to council president Sam Newby, Boylan said he is stepping down from the committee aimed at improving relationships between the police and the community following a heated meeting on Friday over the possible implementation of a Citizens Review Board (CRB). Boylan said most of the people who have been involved in workshops do not trust law enforcement and he doesn’t see a real path forward for tangible change.

RELATED: ‘Safer Together’ report finds many African Americans distrust Jacksonville police

“The first series of workshops proved to be a great opportunity for learning from each other…for the community to see the many and varied ways the JSO seeks to engage citizens and for the JSO to garner a greater appreciation of how they are perceived in certain areas of our city. In my view those heartfelt discussions demonstrated to me that the instrument which I recommended at the end of the first set of workshops, a civilian policy review board, would be a way to continue building mutual respect and understanding,” Boylan wrote. “It became more than evident to me at our meeting on Friday (10/15/2021) that most of the citizens actively participating in these discussions are either unwilling or unable to demonstrate such trust.”

“The incident review board is really something else,” Boylan told News4Jax in an interview. “You’re walking a tightrope and trying to do that because of, you know, federal, state laws. And I think it’s much more volatile, in terms of the kind of reaction that might have on our community. I was looking to build something.”

At the Friday morning meeting at City Hall, the public, mostly members of the Northside Coalition, expressed criticism of the Sheriff’s Office for not taking action toward change and specifically criticized Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams for not attending.

“While I understand their passion, I cannot be party to an effort where individuals use the forum to make disparaging assertions and unwarranted accusations towards fellow citizens who have chosen to protect and serve them, particularly when Director Bruno and others from the JSO have conducted themselves professionally throughout,” Boylan wrote.

Safer Together has held a series of workshops with members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and after those workshops, recommended the creation of a CRB. The current review process starts with the State Attorney’s Office, and then an internal review by JSO.

In the letter, Boylan reiterated that since the start of the committee he was not in support of a CRB, something that the Northside Coalition and other community members have pushed for.

In a memo sent Thursday and obtained by News4Jax, Boylan was also critical of JSO and said he fears the workshops with Safer Together were “just another exercise in tamping down any effort to bring meaningful change to the police force.” Boylan said Sheriff Mike Williams did not engage in any of the discussions and that Undersheriff Pat Ivey professed no familiarity with the issues raised.

“I didn’t feel that we were going to get to where we needed to,” Boylan told News4Jax. “And as difficult as that was to make that clarion cry, I stepped out to say, ‘this isn’t working, we need to take a break from it.’”

Activist Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition, issued a statement to News4Jax on Monday:

“It sounds to me like Mr. Boylan’s resignation was written by Sheriff Mike Williams!” Frazier said. “CM Tommy Hazouri created the Safer Together Committee Last June. Deep in our hearts, we believe the unfinished work of CM Tommy Hazouri for social justice must continue. We need council members who are ready to do the uncomfortable but courageous work of police reform. We are hopeful that someone on the council will have the integrity to stand with CM Joyce Morgan in her effort to bring this city together. This resignation represents the classic nature of the problem that confronts us: extreme distrust between law enforcement and the black community.”

About the Authors:

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

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.