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'Safer Together' Report IDs Ways To Mend Community-Police Relations

sheriff_mike_williams_flanked_by_mayor_lenny_curry_and_leonard_fournette_at_june_9_rally_in_downtown_jacksonville.jpg
SKY LEBRON / WJCT NEWS
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Sheriff Mike Williams speaks at a June 9, 2020, rally against police brutality.

The result of the city of Jacksonville’s “Safer Together” initiative was unveiled this week, with its final report shining light on the relationship between local law enforcement and people of color.

Former City Council President Tommy Hazouri formed “Safer Together” and appointed council members Michael Boylan and Joyce Morgan to conduct the community workshops with the help of professional civic engagement facilitators Tammy Hodo and Brian Van Brunt and JSO Director Michael Bruno. Discussions were held about policing techniques, engagement with the community, and community-oriented programs. 

The 52-page report out this week, authored by the city’s consultant All Things Diverse, LLC found that people of color, particularly African Americans, take issue with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s “methods, equity, transparency, and discretion.” A 2020 community survey focused on JSO by the University of North Florida and cited in the report found “Black respondents indicated that their second greatest complaint was racial profiling, stereotyping, or harassing at 15%, while tying with Hispanic respondents at 13% regarding ‘unprofessional, racial profiling

and lack of action.’”

 

The UNF data also said that when it comes to officer-involved shootings, “Black respondents had the lowest level of trust in the JSO’s conducting investigations, with Hispanic respondents coming in closely behind at 40%. White respondents had the lowest level of concern about being victims of police brutality, while Black and Hispanic respondents had relatively high levels of concern: 60% and 45%.”

Tammy Hodo, president of All Things Diverse, told WJCT News, “You have to create relationships with communities that lack trust. And the African American and [LatinX] community has valid reasons for their distrust.” 

Hodo praised JSO’s use of community substations, but said more needs to be done.

“I believe that they need to have a contingency plan in regards to the same people in that zone for a substantial amount of time in order to create those realistic or real relationships that need to take place in order to develop that trust and transparency,” she said.

“Building those relationships is something that has to take place. I know that policing is something that we need. And I know that, you know, the vast majority of police are good and that they're here to protect and serve,” Hodo added.

The report recommends community partnerships, more training for officers, and a citizen review board to help heal the relationship. 

The seven Safer Together workshops took place from January to May 2021, mostly over Zoom because of the pandemic. 

 
Read the whole report here.