JACKSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY SPECIAL COMMITTEE MINUTES
February 7, 2017
City Council Chamber
Ground Floor, City Hall
117 W. Duval Street
Immediately following the PHS Committee Meeting
Attendance: Council Members: Sam Newby (Chair), Bill Gulliford (Vice Chair), Aaron Bowman, Anna Lopez Brosche, Tommy Hazouri, Joyce Morgan; Council Member Katrina Brown was excused; Assistant General Counsel Paige Johnston; Assistant Council Auditor Kyle Billy; Jordan Elsbury, Administration; John J. Jackson, Colleen Hampsey, Council Research Division; Legislative Assistant Samantha Lane.
The Chair called the Special Meeting to order at 9:27 and announced that the topic for the Special Meeting was the Sheriff’s Office’s Body Cameras pilot program.
The first presenter was Gary Dickenson, Staff Executive, Community Affairs, who explained the Sheriff’s Watch program.
The Sheriff’s Watch program replaced the Sheriff’s Advisory Council (SHADCO) and expanded some of the previous group’s work. The members are now referred to as advisors; they are all expected to be active in their communities. The Advisors engage with the Sheriff’s Office in person. The goal of the Sheriff’s Watch is a safer community and stronger relationships.
Mr. Dickenson described the triage of activity at the core of the Sheriff’s Watch work.
Education is considered a vital component. It is essential to better educate the public on community issues and the JSO’s work. The concerns of the community are the second component. The advisors talk with the officers that work in their respective communities to share information on issues and concerns that the community has. The third component of the triage is the resolution of the concerns and problems that are identified.
Each of the Police Zones throughout the City has a Sheriff’s Watch group. Mr. Dickenson characterized the Sheriff’s Watch as the vehicle that keeps communities connected to JSO.
Sheriff Mike Williams gave a brief update on the status of the body camera program. He noted that it was a year ago that a committee was launched to explore his department’s utilization of body cameras. The Sheriff characterized body cameras as the wave of the future and indicated that Jacksonville will have the largest body camera program in the country.
Director Tony Davis provided an overview of the body camera program. He was joined by his team that consisted of Lt. Lilly Hotard, Lt. Lolita Smith, and George Chakhtoura.
Mr. Chakhtoura showed the Committee a video that recorded an incident in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In the incident, a police body camera recorded the police confronting and chasing a young man. The incident resulted in the young man’s death. Mr. Chakhtoura explained that the video showed some of the limitations in the use of body cameras. Council Member Bill Gulliford said that he could not actually tell what was going on in the video as he watched.
Director Davis said that goals in the use of body cameras included providing transparency and accountability to the community. He explained that body cameras were good for training opportunities and in providing what he described as procedural justice.
In remarks on a timeline for launching a body camera program, Director Davis reported that the research started a year ago. JSO personnel have attended numerous seminars throughout the country.
Sheriff Williams fielded numerous questions. He explained how he perceived a pilot program being launched. He explained that body camera data would be in storage on average for 90 days. Data for use in an ongoing criminal trial would extend the storage time.
The Sheriff explained how policy was being developed. JSO has taken an extensive look and reviewed how other cities and jurisdictions around the country have experienced use of body cameras in their operations. JSO has reviewed the research from the International Association of Police Chiefs.
In several questions, Council Member Tommy Hazouri referenced police dashboard cameras and asked about their effectiveness when compared with the potential of body cameras. Chief Williams indicated that there was far more discussions on body cameras than dash cams.
In a Public Comment, Ben Frazier of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was critical of JSO for not including community input when developing a policy and pilot program for body cameras. He noted that not once was the word “community” mentioned in JSO’s presentation on body cameras. He said that we need a partnership between the police and the community. Chief Williams explained that the plans and policy for the body camera program was still being formulated, a work in progress. Before the program is launched, stakeholders like community groups will have opportunities for input.
There being no further business, the Special Committee meeting was adjourned at 10:43 a.m.
John J. Jackson, Council Research Division (904) 630-1729
Posted: 9:00 A.M.