Sheriff Williams not seeking more officers in budget discussions

The sheriff anticipates Jacksonville could need more officers next year, though

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Despite the fact that Jacksonville has seen 102 homicides this year, the Sheriff’s Office is not asking the City Council for more officers. Instead, Sheriff Mike Williams wants more staff to man the agency’s real-time crime center.

Under the proposed city budget, the Sheriff’s Office would receive $481 million, or the largest share of any city department. Williams’ biggest focus is on having enough people to monitor the city through the crime center, a facility that houses ShotSpotter, the gunfire detection technology that uses specialized microphones to alert police to shootings as soon as gunshots ring out.

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Speaking before the City Council on Thursday, the sheriff also discussed body cameras worn by officers. By the end of October, he said, most of the agency’s 1,000-plus uniformed officers will be equipped with them. Williams said one thing he’s noticed since officers began wearing the cameras is the number of citizen complaints has dropped.

“That complaint would end up the officer’s word versus the individual word. Well, that doesn’t happen anymore,” he said, adding that police now have video evidence that details the entire interaction from start to finish. “That’s helpful.”

DOCUMENTS: View the breakdown of the proposed sheriff's budget

Fielding questions about recent homicides and an apparent increase in violent crime, Williams said that is largely centered on a particular group.

“If you are not buying, selling or using drugs in this community and you don’t hang around people who do that, including gang members or anybody else in that circle, your chance of being a victim of violence is low,” he said.

Williams said his agency is also helping Duval County School Police Department with security measures in schools. His officers are also filling in at schools where there is a shortage of armed safety assistants, the private individuals hired by the School Board to monitor schools. He said in light of a current shortage, he’s supplying about 80 officers to schools, but he hopes to reduce that number.

While the sheriff told News4Jax he is not asking for more police this year, he believes that will change in a year’s time. He said the agency is studying the current situation in Jacksonville and evaluating new crime-fighting techniques to find out what works. Because of that and some anticipated growth, he said more officers may be required next year.

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