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First Coast Connect: A Call For Review Of Police-Involved Shootings

Allie George
Ben Frazier, a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, talks to Melissa Ross.

Local organizations are calling for an independent review and a U.S. Justice Department investigation of the police-involved shooting of 22-year-old Vernell Bing Jr.

The Jacksonville chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the city’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has openly expressed their displeasure with police violence and the questionable police action.

Bing, who was unarmed, who was shot and killed on May 22 after he rammed a stolen Chevrolet Camaro into a patrol car at 53 mile an hour. The incident has fueled negative scrutiny within the community towards the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office.

Ben Frazier, a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, appeared on Wednesday’s First Coast Connect to discuss why he believes independent oversight of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is necessary.

“All we want — all of us; each of us — is an honest and thorough investigation,” he said.

The city’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference studied public records and discovered, from 2002 to 2014, there were 135 police-involved shootings in the city and 65 percent of those who were shot were African-American.  In 2016, there have been seven police shootings and four of those shot were black.

“We know there is a history of questionable police shootings that resulted in the deaths of black people. It is crazy,” Frazier said.

Frazier said he interviewed eyewitnesses regarding Bing’s death who said he was unarmed, exited from the passenger side, and appeared to be injured and limping away from the police officer.

After the latest incident, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are requesting a citizen advisory board, body cameras and an outside agency review.

In October Sheriff Mike Williams launched  a months-long study of police policies by four panels made up of local citizens and advocates. He has addressed the issue of body cameras and — although he does not oppose them — said they are costly. The report is expected to be out by the end of this month.

“We need to take an honest look at what’s going on with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s department," Frazier said. "I assure you if we're not careful, we’ll be the center of a new national movement that — I’m hopeful won’t result in violence — will certainly result in the attention being focused on Jacksonville.”

View the interview, courtesy of our partnerTVJax.