Sheriff: Room to 'improve' handling of transgender crimes

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After the shootings of four transgender women in Jacksonville in the past five months, three of whom died, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has dealt with backlash from the community on how the agency deals with crimes involving transgender people.

The last transgender woman to be shot and killed in Jacksonville was Antasha Devine English, which happened in June. Following English's death, activists have been protesting for change.

Sheriff Mike Williams admitted this week his department can do better.

"We had a good meeting yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, and there's room for us to improve there," Williams said. "Not only in how we talk about it in the community, but how the officers interact with the community."

The Sheriff's Office tweeted a photo Thursday showing members of Equality Jax, JASMYN and other members of the transgender community standing alongside Williams. The photo was taken during their meeting about improving relationships between police and the LGBTQ community.

"Those groups bring some legitimate concerns to the table that we're going to," Williams said. "We're going to be able to build on some solutions that will help us in the future."

Chloie Kensington, a community activist, said the conversation she had with Williams and JSO made her feel at ease.

"I was pleasantly pleased at their demeanor and being so receptive to us. Hearing the concerns -- they seemed engaged with a genuine interest to want to shorten the gap in communication between JSO and the LGBTQ community," Kensington said.

Kensington said Williams talked about being part of a ten day town hall exclusively for the LGBTQ community. She said he'd consider putting together an LGBTQ liaison committee comprised of officers who would be involved with their community.

LINK: Fundraiser for August rally

Kensington is organizing a rally to take place August 11 at 3 p.m. It'll start at Memorial Park and the group will march to Riverside Park in honor of the transgender women shot recently in Jacksonville.

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