Trust Index: Is City Council candidate Tracye Polson ‘for defunding the police?’

News4JAX is fact-checking a political ad created for candidate Nick Howland

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.Editor’s Note: During his appearance on This Week in Jacksonville, Nick Howland referenced the Safer Together report, which discusses the definition of defunding the police as moving budget allocations around to help create solutions, such as funding the co-responder program. Read the report on the city’s website.

The News4JAX Trust Index team is fact checking a commercial that’s been all over Jacksonville airwaves, including Channel 4. It’s a political ad created for City Council candidate Republican Nick Howland, attacking his opponent, Democrat Tracye Polson.

We checked the tape, and found the company that made the ad for candidate Howland snagged a very small portion of Polson’s statements from her December appearance on Channel 4′s program This Week in Jacksonville. We put Howland’s commercial through the Trust Index by looking at Polson’s entire statements, and the context in which she said them.

MORE: Two candidates in special city council election face off in debate over key issues

“You’re going to hear a lot about how I’m, you know, for defunding the police,” Polson says in the sound bite.

A narrator then says “Tracye Polson’s extreme agenda hurts Jacksonville and put us all at risk.”

“Tracye Polson attacks law enforcement and makes Jacksonville less safe,” is claimed in the ad.

News4JAX anchor and This Week in Jacksonville host Kent Justice asked Howland if he stands by the claims made in the commercial.

“My plan supports JSO in their efforts to retain officers and their efforts to hire more officers and their efforts to bring technology to our city to keep our streets and our neighborhoods safe. Her’s redirects funding to mental health co-responders. It means there’s less of the officers on the street and it lengthens the response time to respond to 911 calls,” Howland said.

Justice also asked Polson if her views were characterized fairly, and if she believes in defunding police as the ad portrays.

“No, and this is a lie, and Mr. Howland knows it,” Polson said. “I’ve been talking about a program that is already in existence at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. It is the mental health co-responder program, and this funding comes from a grant they’ve already — it’s been so successful.”

News4JAX went into the archives, and pulled the original Dec. 12 interview with Polson on This Week in Jacksonville. Here’s what she said while talking about the Safer Together Program:

“I’m talking a lot about public safety, but from the lens of a mental health professional, which is, you know, I am. When Tommy (Hazouri) was council president, he created the Safer Together committee, and one of the recommendations was to expand the co-responder program at JSO. Now, this is a program they already have. This is already happening. And so you’re going to hear a lot about how I’m, you know, for defunding the police. What I’m for is making sure that we don’t put people in the county jail that belong in a treatment center that have mental health problems, and the last place that they need to be is in the jail,” Polson said in December.

Polson says Howland’s commercial mischaracterizes her statements and uses divisive language, while Howland says any additional investment in a mental health co-responder program is essentially defunding the police.

“My opponent’s plan will increase mental health co-responders above what’s existing, what’s in the budget right now, which leaves less money for police officers and that’s defunding,” Howland said.

After reviewing the entire transcript of what Polson said here on This Week In Jacksonville compared to what’s used in the commercial. The News4JAX Trust Index Team gives Howland’s allegations that Polson wants to defund the police a rating of “not true.”

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

The producers of Howland’s commercial took Polson’s words out of context and only aired a small snippet.

The citywide special election for Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 3 is underway. Election day is Feb. 22. Early voting starts Feb. 12, but you can vote by mail now.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.