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Michael Boylan resigns from Safer Together, citing poor police-community relations

Boylan.jpg
News4Jax.com/city of Jacksonville
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City Council member Michael Boylan attends a Feeding Northeast FL Facilities Tour on Nov. 4, 2019.

Jacksonville City Councilman Michael Boylan says he’s stepping down as vice chair of the Safer Together workshops, aimed at bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community.

In a letter to Council President Sam Newby, Boylan blamed residents who made disparaging comments about police at the meetings.

“I have been clear all along that I would not support a civilian review board,” Boylan wrote, adding that he felt citizens who attended the meetings would not be satisfied with any effort the committee made at compromise. “To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I had hoped better for all of us.”

In his resignation letter, Boylan praised the Sheriff’s Office for participating in the Safer Together process, but in a memo obtained by WJCT News partner News4Jax, Boylan last month accused the agency of stifling meaningful change and not fully engaging in the workshops.

That’s a complaint shared by Michael Sampson, a leader of the citizens group Jacksonville Community Action Committee.

“Throughout the process of these Safer Together meetings, there’s been a superficial kind of participation from the Sheriff’s Office,” Sampson said. “The sheriff has not attended one meeting; he’s always sent either the undersheriff or Director Bruno to attend the meetings in his stead.”

Sampson said he was disappointed in Boylan’s resignation but said the work of the Safer Together group would continue.

Boylan said he does not support a civilian board to review police-involved use-of-force incidents, although he signed on to a Sept. 17 memorandum recommending that discussions about such an incident review board should continue.

The Safer Together workshops were organized in 2020 by the late City Council President Tommy Hazouri in response to civil unrest and calls for police reform after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In its August 2021 report, Safer Together recommended changes at the Sheriff's Office including implicit bias training, mental health awareness and response, and continuing dialogue about a citizen review board.

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.