Jacksonville Advocate 'Dumbfounded' By Gov. Scott's Cold-Case Task Force Veto

Mar 17, 2016

 

Gov. Rick Scott at a job creation event last year.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed more than $250 million in the state budget this week, including $50,000 that would have helped create a statewide cold case task force.

Jacksonville alone has about 1,300 unsolved murders.

Ryan Backmann is Executive Director of Jacksonville victims’ advocacy group Project: Cold Case. He and Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) have been lobbying for the task force for three years.

“Why is it okay to ignore murderers and unsolved murders? I really don’t have an answer for that,” Backmann says. “I’m dumbfounded every time I get the call that says, ‘Well, we did a little better this time, but it’s still not enough.’ The governor didn’t feel like $50,000 was worth potentially taking murderers off the street?”

Backmann says the proposed 19-member statewide task force would have examined local law enforcement cold-case policies to identify best practices. It's an idea he says has helped solve cases in Colorado.

“Right now, each individual law enforcement agency kind of has their own policies and protocols when he comes to cold cases,” Backmann says. “‘Cold case’ may not even be a term certain agencies use. There’s not a lot of uniformity across the state itself, so it’s very hard when you’re trying to gather information on a state level."

He says the task force recommendations could have helped lawmakers create standards that would lead to more arrests.

Backmann, whose father’s murder is left unsolved, says $50,000 is the lowest amount of funding he and and Bean have tried to secure. It would covered expenses for task force members, but not salaries.

“Do we have to cut the number of the task force in half so that next year it’s $25,000?’ he asks.  

Backmann says he hasn’t given up and he’s going to keep fighting for state funding.

This story will be updated.