Police, Community Members Discuss JSO Budget
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has a budget of $484 million dollars this year, about a third of the city’s total spending. Most of that goes to salaries and benefits for the JSO’s 3,237 employees. JSO also spends about $36,000 to incarcerate one person for a year, which is more than the median income in Jacksonville.
Those numbers are from a presentation by JSO Chief William Clement in a Safer Together workshop with city council members, activists and members of the public Friday. The workshops have been occurring monthly since January and are a response to protests after the police killing of George Floyd last year.
Friday’s conversation was wide-ranging, touching on everything from the bloated jail population to the high cost of housing and caring for what JSO called “super-utilizers”: people who interact with law enforcement regularly, often because they are homeless or because of mental health difficulties.
Bobbie O’Connor, the director of the interfaith group OneJax, asked representatives of the sheriff’s office why there had not been any expansion of social workers or unarmed community services officers to handle some interactions with super-utilizers.
“When you talk about disturbances, especially domestic, but any of those disturbances, are some of the most dangerous or potentially most violent calls that we end up handling, because there are so many unknown factors,” Clement said. “We can’t ask the employee that is unarmed or not prepared to go into a situation that could potentially cost them their life.”
Activist Wells Todd pushed back on that. “The police are not capable of responding to mental health issues, they’re not capable of responding to other crises that have nothing to do with crime; they are responsible to protect themselves,” Todd said. “And when they feel threatened, their response is going to be to shoot someone.”
According to data analysis by the group Mapping Police Violence, JSO shot and killed 47 people from 2013 to 2020. Black people were killed at twice the rate of white people. Just last month, a JSO officer allegedly shot Michael Hughes when the police responded to a domestic disturbance.
The community meeting came days after a rally for police accountability in which members of the Jacksonville Community Action Committee and other activist groups called for more civilian oversight of the police.
Contact Sydney Boles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at@sydneyboles.