As the midnight hour approached Tuesday in Jacksonville, its City Council heard public comment — and much of that comment centered on a Councilor.
Councilwoman Katrina Brown ran afoul of the head of the local Fraternal Order of Police, Steve Zona, after accusing officers of “racial profiling” during a stop of yet another Councilman, Reggie Gaffney.
Brown pulled up behind the traffic stop, initiated because Gaffney’s tag had been reported stolen, and offered her critique of law enforcement.
Though Gaffney rolled over two weeks ago at a Council meeting, Brown refused to apologize for what she said, and that led to police officers, including heads of national, state, and local unions, to ask Brown to walk back her comments.
Chuck Canterbury, President of the National Fraternal Order of Police, started off.
Canterbury wanted to address “the refusal of a councilperson to address what every member of the FOP knows … when we speak falsely about someone, we face consequences: we lose our jobs.”
Canterbury said “it’s never too late to do the right thing,” saying that racial profiling accusations “widen the gap” created by systemic poverty and corollaries.
Local FOP Head Steve Zona alluded to a “false narrative” here in Jacksonville, with a “false accusation of racial profiling” helping to fuel the fire.
Brown sat impassive as Zona accused Brown of “abuse of power” and “false accusations of racial profiling.”
“This member’s actions are embarrassing to the Council as a whole,” Zona said, saying she needed to “act as a leader and not an activist.”
Robert Jenkins, the state President of the FOP, said that people look to Council for perspective and respect.
“It doesn’t take much to say you’re sorry,” Jenkins said.
Other police officers, local and otherwise, active and retired, spoke along similar lines — stressing the healing powers of apology, as Brown rocked back and forth in her chair.
Her comments about “the biggest issue in Jacksonville being the prosecution of police officers” were brought up again, as were the seeming incongruities between her advocacy for body-worn cameras and the role of those cameras in Councilman Gaffney’s traffic stop last month.
“The body-worn cameras captured the entire incident,” said former local FOP head Steve Amos, “and showed no racial profiling.”