JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville City Council’s Safer Together committee was created following protests in the summer of 2020 to address tensions between the Black community and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
After five months of meetings, that committee issued its final report. Its formal release was Wednesday night during a workshop at city hall.
Two weeks ago, First Coast News went through the report, which highlights the committee’s priorities, and offers a snapshot of the tenor of the sometimes difficult conversations.
There were nine recommendations made by the Safer Together committee. However, most community members who came to the workshop were focused on one: the Citizen's Review Board.
The report released last week suggested “revisiting” the issue and included guidelines for its creation, including autonomy and transparency.
It noted strong community support for a review board and staunch opposition from the police union.
The divide was clear among those who came to speak Wednesday night.
“We can’t just keep having these internal investigations," Christina Kittle, a Jacksonville Community Action Committee organizer said. "I would like to see democratically held elections in each police district, and then community members are choosing civilians that we trust.“
“Those civilian review boards that were spoken about tonight and that we see around the nation get emotionally hijacked, they operate off of political agendas," Randy Reeves, the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police Vice President said. "And it’s not fair to our members – the men and women who strap on a badge and gun every day to then be dragged through that mud again.“
Instead, Reeves believes there needs to be more community education on the accountability process that is already in place for JSO officers.
“The process we already have in place is very thorough. And our officers are not only held to a criminal standard, they're then held again to an agency standard," he explained.
However, Kittle says it’s time to put the committee's work into action, and she believes it starts with the community members playing a part in accountability of the sheriff’s office.
“I think we’re at a good starting point, but I would like us to move forward sooner rather than later. Because the more time we spend having discussions, the more the community suffers, the more people that lose their lives, the more people get locked up," she explained. "I think JSO should trust us the same way they're asking us to trust them."
Northside Coalition of Jacksonville was another activist group who had many of members attend the workshop. President Ben Frazier suggested a list of reforms, which included the establishment of a Citizen's Review Board and an end to JSO's internal investigations.
Now, Jacksonville City Council members Joyce Morgan and Michael Boylan will meet to discuss the committee’s priorities and the community's response.
They will then make their own recommendations and present those during a meeting at city hall on Monday, Aug. 30.