Duval County

Police union sues Jacksonville Sheriff over release of officer information

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A lawsuit filed Thursday by the police union against the Jacksonville sheriff could change the information the public gets for cases like officer-involved shootings.

It's a disagreement over Marsy's Law, a Florida amendment that protects the release of certain information for crime victims.

The 19-page lawsuit doesn’t ask for damages. Instead it wants the courts to decide if officers’ names are released when they’re victims of crimes.

In the lawsuit, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30 states in part, Sheriff Mike Williams "has instituted a policy of not permitting his officers to enjoy the protections afforded to all victims.'

“Whether it's an officer-involved shooting, whether you're attacked by a suspect, whatever it is that caused you to be a victim of a crime while you're working, Marsy's Law- in our opinion- should apply,” said Steve Zona, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Jacksonville.

That would mean an officer's name isn't released.

It was in the Jamee Johnson case, which Zona said is wrong.

JSO said during a stop and subsequent struggle with officers last month, the FAMU student attempted to drive off as Officer J. Garriga was hanging in his car.

JSO said Johnson had a gun in the car, and that Officer Garriga shot and killed him.

“We want to see the bodycam footage, where is that? We want to see the reports, where are they?” said Ben Frazier, the president of the Northside Coalition. “We’re getting so much away from just being upfront and honest with each other that I think it’s a move in the wrong direction.”

Frazier believes this lawsuit is another threat to transparency.

“Any interpretation that gives the police an opportunity not to be up front with the public is a bad move,” Frazier said. “We want the police to come clean with us.”

“I get the concern from the community on that, but you have to weigh it between the individual victim's rights, and they're a victim just like anybody else,” Zona said.

Zona believes the Florida Supreme Court is on their side after ruling in a “stand your ground” case that officers are people and should be afforded the same rights.

Action News Jax reached out to JSO and the city Thursday, but neither will comment on pending litigation.

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