JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – During Wednesday night’s debate for the next Jacksonville Sheriff – aired live on Channel 4, News4JAX.com, on the News4JAX+ smart TV app – one issue that was frequently brought up was how the agency handles investigations into the use of excessive force, including officer-involved shootings.
As of now, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO), along with the State Attorney’s Office, Medical Examiner, and sometimes other agencies, investigate those incidents.
Out of five candidates, three – Ken Jefferson, Lakesha Burton and Wayne Clark – said they supported turning those investigations over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
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Candidate Tony Cummings proposed a “Public Accountability Office” and “Civilian Review Boards.”
Candidate T.K. Waters supported keeping the process within JSO. Waters was the lead investigator into officer-involved shootings within the agency from 2019 until his retirement a few weeks ago.
The Fraternal Order of Police President told News4jax they support any legitimate law enforcement probe into police actions like a shooting. They also said with all the other agencies, including the State Attorney and Medical Examiner, this is not simply a JSO internal investigation with its Integrity Unit.
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In 2020, State Attorney Melissa Nelson made the move to release body-worn camera footage publicly at a more expedited pace than in past years. JSO also started a transparency webpage where they put out public documents and videos from investigations.
News4JAX spoke with Shannon Schott, former President of the Northeast Florida Chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who has represented several clients who have been in legal battles with the Agency.
Schott said JSO has a very organized process to review use of force with its Integrity Unit.
“JSO has an Integrity Unit that is completely separate and apart from the downtown JSO building,” Schott said. “It’s a very nondescript building. Those officers in the integrity unit are actually completely isolated from other officers. So there are levels of checks and balances,” said Schott.
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Multiple other agencies use FDLE to look into their incidents with the use of force – including local agencies like the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Miami-Dade Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Some residents told News4JAX they would welcome an outside agency to take over reviews.
“I think an outside agency should come in,” Jay Holmes, a Jacksonville resident, said. “Yeah, I get suspicious. Nah, I don’t think they’re investigated properly.”
Click here to watch the full debate.