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Jacksonville City Council Will Launch ‘Safer Together’ Workshops Next Month

a large, open main lobby at the Jacksonville City Hall with a top down view, a few people walking along the bottom floor.
Brendan Rivers
/
WJCT News
Inside of Jacksonville City Hall

Beginning in early January, the Jacksonville City Council will begin holding “Safer Together” workshops, with the aim of the meetings to encourage residents to voice their concerns and ideas for creating a safer community.

This summer, Council President Tommy Hazouri announced the creation of the workshops, alongside the Social Justice and Community Investment Committee, which has been meeting every month since May.

Hazouri also brought up an amendment that Councilman Garrett Dennis offered during this past year’s budget, which would have withheld some of the money the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office would receive, and force them to come to the City Council to show their need for the funding before receiving the rest of it.

“This is not about defunding, it really is about repurposing this council to know what's going on in the community,” Hazouri. “We hear about it every day, all three - the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Dennis withdrew the bill the night of the budget approval.

“And he trusted what I was gonna do and am doing, and what this council wants to do, and that is to go out and talk about what's going on,” Hazouri said.

Council members Joyce Morgan and Michael Boylan will lead the discussions. Morgan said this will be answering a cry from the public that the council has heard for a while - to have a legitimate chance to speak to city leadership.

“It is so important that we all have a seat at the table, and that's what we have not had in this city,” Morgan said. “It's about to change.”

The two council members are asking that people who wish to speak at these workshops introduce themselves beforehand by emailing them and sending them information they believe will be important to discuss.

There is no set date on when the first meeting will be, but there is an end date scheduled.

The conclusions of the workshops will be on June 30, 2021. After that, a report on the workshops will be created and delivered to the full City Council by July 27, which could take the form of legislative or policy changes. 

“I really think it's a two way street in this process,” Boylan said. “We need to understand and appreciate the challenges our law enforcement faces each and every day. And we need for them to appreciate the challenges that many of us feel as relates to our relationship with them.”

After the council members spoke, they heard briefly from community members, as well as local law enforcement.

JSO Director Mike Bruno said the department has been using a community-oriented policing manual for years, and that they continue having discussions on the topic of engaging with the community.

“We've got to get the officers out of the car,” Bruno said. “It's important. That's a key component of community policing.”

Meanwhile Jacksonville resident Stanley Scott said while JSO is a component of the community, he is hoping the entire workshop duration is not hyper focused on community-police relations.

“Yes, there's issues going on that must be addressed with JSO, just like any other organization, but let's look at this as a community issue instead of just JSO,” Scott said.

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.