St. Augustine police chief says more officers needed for events such as 'Nights of Lights'

By: Larry Spruill , Action News Jax

Updated:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Nation’s Oldest City is preparing for an influx of tourists for the kickoff of "Nights of Lights" on Saturday.

Right now, there are roughly 50 officers at the St. Augustine Police Department, but Chief Barry Fox said he needs more and in a hurry, especially with the "Nights of Lights" starting in a couple days. 

Fox told City Council he’s short on officers, and has been for a while now.

“I needed four officers, two to three years ago, to bring up my patrol squad,” Fox said. 

Chief Fox said that doesn’t take care of the every day department needs or the downtown area.

“I need at least, probably at least, two more officers in downtown area,” Fox said. 

Those extra officers are definitely needed, especially for the big weekend. Rocco Marino will be one of the thousands there.

“It’s great, the community all comes together, for that one common cause of the making the town beautiful,” Marino said. 

This year, things will be a little different. That’s because there will be a protest against the Confederate monuments that stand in the same plaza as where the "Nights of Lights" event will take place. 

“My intent is not to cause mayhem, or chaos,” said the Rev. Ron Rawls, pastor of St. Paul AME Church, who is organizing the protest.

He said although City Council agreed to let the monuments stay, their message against the monuments will be heard loud and clear.

“I love St. Augustine and hate to interfere in an event like "Nights of Lights," but sometimes, when people won’t listen to you, sometimes you have to do things, or touch things that are near and dear to them,” Rawls said. 

But understaffed or not, Officer Dee Brown with St. Augustine Police Department said they are ready for anything that may happen.

“We have some things in place, and we just wish everyone a peaceful protest, and have a great 'Night of Lights,'" Brown said.

As for getting extra officers, the City Council asked the police chief to come back to them with a definite number of officers he needs to be fully staffed. 

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