Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams is expressing major concerns regarding the Republican National Convention coming to Jacksonville.
“It is my sole responsibility to provide safety and security for our city and, more importantly, for the citizens who I serve,” Williams said. “So with a growing list of challenges, be it financial, with communication, with the timeline, I cannot say with confidence that this event, or our community will not be at risk.”
At a media conference Monday afternoon, Williams said there have been concerns with communications between his JSO and other convention stakeholders, and not having enough financial resources or law enforcement manpower.
“We've only been able to pull together about 25% of what we requested,” Williams said. “Some of this is due to concerns over reimbursement, while additional issues are related to the pandemic that we're facing today.”
Williams noted that there have been issues with grant funding between the city and the Department of Justice. In an interview with Politico, Williams outlined that a grant that was initially $50 million was cut down to $33 million, and getting contracts signed for security and money procurement just isn’t happening.
“I've penned-to-paper on not one contract, not one piece of procurement. Nothing we need is in route. And we're just past the point of no return,” Williams said.
Despite this, Williams said federal and state law enforcement partners were working with them and had been “fantastic,” but not knowing the details of an exact plan with just a little over a month to prepare weren’t reassuring.
“We planned for the Super Bowl for two years, and typically for the RNC, it's an 18-month planning cycle. So we knew going in, no illusions about the timetable but things had to be perfect, and they have not been close. Not even close,” Williams said.
Williams said he has been in constant communication with the Mayor Lenny Curry’s office, who he said “understands” JSO’s position.
The sheriff wouldn’t directly say if cancelling the RNC is the best course of action.
“That's not my call and not my job, so, you know, we're tasked with obviously keeping the event safe, keeping our community safe during the event,” Williams said. “I can tell you in this current configuration, I don't feel comfortable [that] we can do that.”
With only 35 days before the RNC is due to begin in Jacksonville, Williams said another plan or an increase in resources provided would still make it a tough ask of JSO to properly prepare for.
“And at this point, we're simply past the point of no return to execute the event safely with the safety and security,” Williams said.
If there is no change to the current plan and the RNC is still held, Williams said JSO will do what it can.
“We're not taking our ball and going home,” Williams said. “But we do need to wave the flag and kind of elevate the conversation to the point that ‘hey we don't have what we need, and things are not all good.’”
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.