Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers have been under a media microscope of late, with a number of adverse stories about them in the local press.
And even in the JSO budget hearing Thursday, conversation kept coming back to officer comportment and public perception of the embattled police department.
Multiple Council members wondered why Tyler Landreville was back on patrol, just months after killing Vernell Bing.
Meanwhile, Williams discussed the pressures faced by law enforcement, which wreck the lives of some officers: alcoholism, divorce, and other signals of stress are all-too-frequent companions of law enforcement.
With Williams seeking 100 new police officers, we asked him if the shortfall in officers on the street exacerbated that stress. And we asked him also about why Landreville is back on the beat — even though he’s in a different zone now than he was when he shot Bing.
“As the case unfolds initially, if there are some big factors that warrant us moving the [officer] off the street, we do that immediately,” Williams said.
“The decision about prosecution is always made by the State Attorney’s Office. If there’s no initial concern, then that individual is left on the street,” Williams added.
“This case is a little bit different obviously. You’ve got concern from the community,” Williams continued. “Our process has always been and for the current time will be that as you get cleared to come back to work, get your fit for duty, psych eval, as those things happen, pending the State Attorney’s review, you can come back to work.”
If the State Attorney were to press charges, Williams said, the JSO would remove that officer from the street, putting him in a “duty capacity that doesn’t have contact with the public.”
Williams discussed the mental and behavioral issues that cops experience in the context of a well-documented shortfall in staffing, one that creates pressures for those in the field.
“I think — universally, I won’t say yes, but could that be part of those issues? It sure can. We’re driving these guys to do the things that need to get done, we’re driving overtime. A lot of these guys are working extra assignments. So there is an overwork component to that,” Williams said.
While an overworked workforce is a potential contributing factor to what Williams has called officer “misconduct,” he doesn’t believe that they are the sole factor, and he stresses that people should look at how the JSO responds to them.
“When it happens, we have to respond. And we’re kind of put in the position to do that. We’ll always respond this way There’s no quarter for that. You’re not going to be able to do that and work for this organization,” Williams said.
“The relationship we have with the community and the trust we’ve built in this community is too important. We’ve made some great strides there, but you can lose it like that. The best way to lose it is to let people cut corners, and we’re not going to do that.”