JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- They sat in a windowless room inside the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office. It was voluntary, only around 25 of them chose to show up. They were all correction officers. And they all knew their days on the job may be numbered.
"As sheriff, this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I don't like it, but this is where we're at," Sheriff John Rutherford told them Monday.
If City Council approves the mayor’s proposed budget cuts, 95 uniformed officers and 58 correctional officers will lose their jobs.
Shantel Scott-Cook could be one of them. "I’m just like them. I work every day. I pay taxes. I have a family. It's going to affect us big time,” she said.
Scott-Cook’s husband lost his job as a trucker last year. She has been working as a corrections officer at the Duval County jail since August 2011. It’s a job she had always dreamed of doing. When she was in academy, Scott-Cook became pregnant with twins but suffered a miscarriage. Yet, she never quit. "It was hard for me, but I wanted to do it because I was determined to get it done."
But now, she’s learning that hard work may be for naught.
On Monday, she was called to JSO for the correction’s officer lottery. Each of her peers, per civil service rule, was reduced to a number on a bingo ball.
Rutherford explained to the group, "You should have received a paper with your name on it and a corresponding number beside your name."
The number symbolized a number on a bingo ball. With each spin of the basket, they watched their livelihood get put on the line.
The cuts were based on seniority, with the least senior cut first. But because many were in the same class, and started at the same time, they resorted to Bingo. Ties in time were broken based on luck. No one wanted to hear their name or number called first.
The pain seemed to reverberate around the room, and according to the sheriff, soon across the community. "Don’t tell me these are my cuts. These are the mayor's cuts. And these cuts are going to take police officers off the streets and put more drug addicts on the street,” Rutherford said.
“It’s putting us in a position where we’re going to be the next Detroit,” said Fraternal Order of Police President Nelson Cuba.
As they filed out of the room, lotto numbers now known, all they could do was hope that something will soon change.
"Just pray and hope for the best,” Scott-Cook said.
The 58 corrections officers who will be cut will learn their fate on July 30. Their last day will be August 24.
Rutherford plans to hold another lottery for uniformed officers sometime next month.
The sheriff is planning to be at the City Council meeting on Tuesday fighting for council to give him back some of his money from savings. He’s also planning to ask for a roll back on property taxes. According to Rutherford, if everyone pays what they paid last year in property taxes, he would be able to keep all 58 corrections officers.