Kevin Munger is a JSO officer. He’s been on the force for 13 years, and a highlight of his year is working the Jacksonville Fair.
“I’ll grab a sticker out of my pocket, and walk up to one and say, ‘Here, bud,’ or ‘Here, sweetheart, I’ve got a sticker for you,’” Munger said.
Munger carries a roll of silver junior police badge stickers with him while he works. He’s known as the “fair officer.” He offers himself up as a riding partner so kids don’t have to go on scary coasters alone, and he uses the time to talk to them.
His story is one of those highlighted on the sheriff’s office social media posts as a "behind the badge" story. So people can get to know the real him.
After some high-profile incidents, police behavior has been under a magnifying glass across the country. In Jacksonville, some officers feel public opinion of the force has become more negative.
“You know, it feels different,” Munger said. “It’s been a tough year.”
He says he wants kids to know police officers are around to help them.
“One of the common things you’ll hear is a parent tell their child or their little one that if they do something wrong, they’ll call the police and a policeman is going to take them away,” Munger said. “We don’t want that.”
JSO spokeswoman Melissa Bujeda says the Internet is a powerful tool. She says JSO focused more on posting about wanted criminals and crime in the past.
“We were only putting up what we were doing as officers, rather than who we are,” Bujeda said.
So she started photographing her colleagues and interviewing them. She said she wanted to humanize the officers.
On JSO’s Twitter one officer holds a sign in a JSO social media post that says he used to be homeless. Another admits he used to have a mullet haircut. Bujeda says many were shy at first, but then they were happy to open up to the world.
“I think police officers just want citizens to know that we are real,” she said. “We are human beings. We have feelings. We want to help people. We want to protect the citizens of this awesome city that we live in.”
Bujeda says other police departments have contacted her, and they want to duplicate the campaign.