Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona on Sunday called for two Jacksonville City Council members to make a public apology to police or resign.
On Friday, our News4Jax partner obtained a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office body camera video showing the moment officers pulled over City Councilman Reggie Gaffney on suspicion of having a stolen license plate. Gaffney and Councilwoman Katrina Brown are now alleging the traffic stop was racial profiling.
The video was not released by the JSO. It was recorded from a monitor and given to News4Jax by a source.
The video shows a confrontation as officers pulled Gaffney over for allegedly driving with a tag that he had reported stolen, but said he didn’t remember having done.
Although Gaffney said he doesn't remember reporting his tag stolen, a police report states, he did so 1 1/2 years ago when he started getting red light camera citations in the mail, according to News4Jax.
According to Gaffney, he went to a Northside auto repair shop where his car was being worked on and, “discovered his license plate had been removed from his vehicle." Gaffney said he then reported it himself at a police substation.
The biggest takeaway from the conversation News4Jax reporter Destiny McKeiver had with Zona was that he feels the City Council members were using their positions to intimidate police. He said the council members should apologize to the entire Jacksonville police force or resign.
“The main thing I'm trying to get across is the actions of Councilman Gaffney and Brown. They are clearly beneath the office of a council member here in Jacksonville,” Zona said. “They owe the men and women here in Jacksonville. If they can't muster that up, they're not fit to serve, and they need to resign.”
Zona issued the following statement on Facebook Sunday:
"We remind our members regularly that they represent the best of what the law can offer to our community. We remind them that they are accountable for their actions and that no man or woman is above the law. They, in turn, work very hard to provide that same message to the community that they risk their lives for. Shouldn't we expect the same from our elected officials?
In a day and age when police are being ambushed, having their lives threatened, and their character assassinated in the public and through the media on a daily basis, it is shameful to see behavior by elected officials that is nothing short of arrogant and which encourages a very dangerous narrative.
Mr. Gaffney and Mrs. Brown, you were both in favor of body-worn cameras for increased accountability. Mrs. Brown, your comments specifically alleging racial profiling in a case where it so clearly does not exist is what contributes directly to the very stigma that has been created through lies and false allegations against police around our great nation. You have made yourself known to be among those who would rip us apart at the seams rather than pull us together with such hateful rhetoric.
While you have both shamed your position of public trust and so clearly feel that you exist above the law, we can only hope that you will see the error of your ways and issue a heartfelt and sincere apology to the humble public servants who work so diligently to protect the community that you should also be serving. Rather than calling for tax wasting initiatives like civilian review boards we hope you use this teachable moment to take a more introspective look at the concept of accountability. You both missed an opportunity to set an example of true leadership for all of Jacksonville with your irresponsible behavior and now you have an opportunity to attempt to make it right. If you cannot find it within yourselves to make a public apology to these honorable public servants from the hallowed halls of the Jacksonville City Council then please do your constituency the courtesy of resigning your post in violation of our public faith in you.
Sheriff Williams, please take this opportunity to publicly defend your rank and file against these heinous, and clearly false, attacks on our members. They deserve better than this and they should be able to expect the leadership of their agency to stand firmly, and publicly, behind them."
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the Sheriff's Office’s investigation into the incident will reveal more about who was wrong.
“As far as the council people issuing an apology, I don't think that's going to happen until the investigation is complete,” Smith said. “If Mr. Gaffney doesn't believe he's done anything improper, he wouldn't apologize. However, the story seems sketchy. There seem to be several holes in the story that don't match up.”