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As Jacksonville simmers, Sheriff and Senator plot path forward

The Sheriff defended his requested budget hike.

Senate Democratic caucus leader Audrey Gibson continued to work Wednesday with the Jacksonville’s Republican Sheriff on a path forward from the current unrest and demands for change.

Jacksonville, which Gibson represents, has experienced protests for weeks, with another one coming up this weekend, a demonstration against the Sheriff requesting a $6.1 million increase in the upcoming $481 million budget.

Trust, according to a poll released Wednesday, is on the wane with nearly 2/3 of black voters saying law enforcement discriminates.

In that context, Sheriff Mike Williams gamely took questions from youth about the Sheriff’s Office posture toward the younger generation and the concerns that have become unmistakable this year.

Williams described the conversation as the “first step to getting beyond misinformation.”

Among the topics: the Sheriff’s feeling on protesters.

“There’s a distinct difference between protesting and rioting,” Williams said. “We support protest 100%, but it’s got to stay peaceful.”

“Most of what we’ve experienced in Jacksonville has been peaceful protest … we’ll always protect that.”

Regarding Black Lives Matter, Williams said “it’s the civil rights movement of the day.”

The Sheriff’s Office, he said, would protect “peaceful” attempts to voice those concerns through what he expects to be an evolving conversation in the years to come.

Williams decried the “George Floyd murder” when asked, saying that the murderers “deserve everything they get.”

What Gibson called the “knee to the neck,” Williams described as “not a police technique.”

Williams noted, regarding the budget ask, that the city spending on law enforcement is in line with other cities.

“We have enough to get the job done, but just barely,” Williams said, noting that more resources lead to more professional development.

The current requested budget hike, he added, is tied into legacy and personnel costs.

“It’s a very flat budget this year overall,” the Sheriff said.

The Sheriff asserted on occasions what his office was doing to build trust and relationships in communities, including neighborhood walks.

However, what’s clear is that trust and relationships are aspirational goals, with Jacksonville only beginning its reckoning with a history of vast disparities, in resources and recourse alike.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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