First Coast Connect: Jacksonville Sheriff Talks about Protecting Citizens, Racial Tensions

Jul 15, 2016

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams joined us to talk about how to protect citizens from random acts of terror.

After Thursday’s attack in Nice, France, Williams said the challenge for police officers is the balance of protecting citizens during an event without over-policing during the event.  


“It’s up to us to make sure that we don’t smother these events,  but we’ve got to be able to provide the right amount of security — the right amount of officers,” Williams said.

He said that Europe faces a lot of challenges that the United States doesn’t face in terms of security.

“The history of France and northern Africa, and the freedom that people move through Europe that way, provides them with unique challenges,” he said, “And of course, we have our unique challenges here.”

One challenge the U.S. has been facing is the racial tensions felt after recent police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, too, has face some scrutiny for the police shooting of Vernell Bing, Williams said.

Critics including Ben Frazier, spokesman with the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, have said JSO should have third party organizations investigate the shooting, and all police shootings.

But Williams disagrees, saying JSO’s method of investigation is a “best practice model,” which employs four separate agencies, including the State Attorney’s office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In certain cases, such as the Bing case, JSO asks U.S. Department of Justice to oversee their investigation.

Williams said that performing the investigation within their own organization allows for more transparency.

“One thing that concerns me about completely giving the investigation to another agency is we won’t have the opportunity ... to talk to the community about that case because it’s not our case,” Williams said.