JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Protests across the nation have been calling for police reform since the end of May after the national deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Locally, the discussion of police reform has been ongoing for years. A surge of these calls for change happened after Jamee Johnson, a 22-year-old FAMU student, was killed by a JSO officer after he was pulled over for a seat belt violation in December. The State Attorney’s Office is still investigating the case. His case has become a key rallying point for most of the local protests.
It’s been 20 days since protests began in Jacksonville and already the city has seen changes. Confederate statues and memorials have been taken down, the Duval County School Board has voted to change the names of six schools named after confederate leaders, body camera footage will now be released earlier by the State Attorney, and Mayor Lenny Curry has announced he will file legislation that will bring together community leaders as well as elected leaders on issues facing public safety.
WOKV’s Hannah Lee obtained JSO’s 2019 Response to Resistance Annual Report last week and found that officers used force 878 times. WOKV decided to look at each of JSO’s Response to Resistance Annual Reports since 2015 to see if 2019′s data was consistent with the past few years.
Between 2015 and 2019, JSO’s use of force has increased by nearly 61 percent. Between 2012 and 2019, the use of force increased by 70 percent.
This increase of force has occurred while overall crime in Duval County has gone down slightly, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Overall crime in Jacksonville has gone down 26.8 percent since 2012, however, violent crimes like murder have risen.
From 2015 to 2019, Jacksonville officers said they used force 3,333 times in 2,225 incidents. This can mean that more than one type of force was used in one single incident. The most common type was physical use-of-force. In 2014, officers stated there were 181 physical uses of force. In 2019, there were 515. The second most common type of force used was officers deploying their taser. In 2014, officers used their taser 200 times; in 2019 it was used 313 times.
According to the JSO RTR Policy, last updated March 2020, officers must complete an RTR report if they have engaged or witnessed the following:
- An intermediate weapon was used on or against an individual or animal
- A person or animal was exposed to a chemical agent
- A SWAT member used a specialty weapon in a non-SWAT incident
- A taser was deployed in probe or touch-stun mode
- Physical force was used on a subject, and the force resulted or allegedly resulted in an injury
- An injury was observed on a subject following the use of any RTR, including loss of consciousness
- An arrestee was rejected admission to the Pre-Detention Facility and directed to the hospital due to alleged injuries sustained from RTR
- After an arrestee was granted admission to the Pre-Detention Facility and alleges an injury was sustained from an RTR incident
- A supervisor determines an RTR report is appropriate
Out of six zones in Jacksonville, 47.9 percent of incidents have occurred in Zone 4 and Zone 5. Zone 4 comprises Riverside, Avondale, Ortega and the Westside while Zone 5 comprises Northwest Jacksonville, New Town, and Baldwin.
According to the JSO RTR reports, an average of 90 percent of officers showed they used force to overcome resistance from the suspect or suspects. An average of 50 percent of officers show they used force in order to protect themselves. Out of the 2,225 incidents, 308 officers were injured and two officers were shot.
According to the RTR Policy, JSO officers are allowed to use force if it’s reasonable and necessary to affect an arrest or to protect themselves or others from a personal attack, physical resistance, harm, or death.
An average of 34.7 percent of officers were involved in more than one incident each year. An overwhelming majority, 73 percent, of officers involved in these incidents were white males. 50 percent of the officers responding to resistance in the past five years had five or less years of experience.
Reports also indicate a majority of people involved in these confrontations with the police were black males. A total of 59 percent of these incidents involved black males in the past five years while white males make up 26.5 percent of the suspects involved in these incidents.
A 2018 Community Survey by JSO found that 63 percent of black people agreed that being a victim of police brutality is something they personally worry about. 41 percent of the Hispanic survey takers also agreed that they worried about being a victim of police brutality. Only 19 percent of white people agreed.
In 2019, 529 people, or 89.1 percent of response to resistance incidents, were arrested. In 2018, 445 people, or 88.8 percent of response to resistance incidents, ended in arrests. This data isn’t available in the 2015 to 2017 reports, however WOKV has reached out to JSO to get these numbers.
Most of the people who do resist police in these use-of-force incidents sustain injuries. 1,296 people, or 59.2 percent, who encountered police during an RTR incident were injured during or as a result of JSO response. 38 people have been shot by police since 2015; 22 were killed.
Data from the 2017 report doesn’t show how many suspects were armed, but the 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019 reports do show that a total of 80 percent of people were unarmed during these incidents. Nine percent of people were armed with what JSO states are “personal weapons,” meaning fists, teeth, and feet. Eight percent of people were armed with a firearm.
When police did use their firearms from 2015 to 2019, at least 25 suspects had a firearm, two had a taser, one used a car as a weapon, six had knives, and four had a simulated weapon. Seven people were unarmed.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying they use these reports, along with other data, to improve their services.
“Following our Core Values of ‘Community Focused’ and ‘Always Improving,’ we use all of the information available to us from numerous sources to evaluate and improve our services. In evaluating the data, we identify any training issues, necessary policy updates as well as discipline issues, and act accordingly. This is an on-going commitment to self-evaluation and improvement”.
During an interview with WOKV about this data, Ben Frazier, leader of the Northside Coalition, said JSO has an issue with racial discrimination.
“JSO has a culture of shoot first, ask questions later. JSO has a culture that has police officers invading the black community and acting like warriors. Not as servants who are sworn to serve and to protect,” Frazier said. “There’s an attitude here that is definitely racially discriminatory and until there is some admission and some acknowledgment that something is awry, nothing will change.”
Body-camera footage, specifically of officer-involved shootings, have been under scrutiny in the past month as people have called for released footage.
Earlier this month, JSO and the State Attorney’s Office came to an agreement where the State Attorney’s Office will start releasing the body camera footage after a criminal investigation is over. The initial policy was that body-camera footage wouldn’t be released until both the criminal investigation and the internal affairs investigation was over.
“We made the determination as soon as the State is done, they have the evidence which is the body camera footage. She is not bound by that same law that I am because she’s not conducting the internal review of the officer, I am. So she can release the body camera footage,” Sheriff Mike Williams said on Monday.
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