Monthly Archives: March 2015

E Pluribus Unum

From Many, One. Included in the great seal of the United States of America this Latin phrase adopted by our forefathers according to Wikipedia:  was never codified by law but was considered the de facto motto of the United States until 1956 when Congress passed a law adopting “In God We Trust” as the official motto.

What this phrase means to me is Unity.  Not bickering, not abusing, not discriminating and certainly not hating those who are different.   What this means to me is Equality.   Love One Another.   Treat people with respect.  Sure we are human and we have our beliefs and favorites and our attitudes but when it all comes down to it this American value, this logo, this first motto, gives us strength.  Strength to continue to disagree but respectfully stick together.  Strength to continue to put our flag on a mountain under gunfire.  Like brothers and sisters.  We all fight at home but stand together when a bully approaches.

So just remember when you have your opinions right or wrong the liberties, the rights that we call Freedom allow us to continue to disagree with safety.  And the people who defend that freedom, our military and our law enforcement, are still dying every day for us to be able to keep doing just that.

The Secret and Deadly #1 Violent Crime in Jax

The other day I was talking on the phone with an acquaintance.  He told me he had to be careful driving because he owed back child support which had caused his license to be revoked….since 20 years ago!  So I’m guessing he does not have auto insurance.  What happens if he gets involved in a crash and either injures himself or others?  One of the reasons members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office say they want to have and keep Community Service Officers is because they take the load off police officers when it comes to responding to Jacksonville’s high number of traffic crashes.

Speeders, texters, drunks,  careless, reckless or otherwise impaired or distracted drivers cram the roads, which are designed to state and federal safety standards but leave little margin for error.  Even a member of the Florida Highway Patrol calls Beach Blvd  “Nascar Street.”    These hazards along with the negligence of those who deliberately violate their suspended licenses, those who do not keep their cars in safe working condition and illegal immigrants who never even got one in the first place create what I believe to be an unprecedented danger on the roads.   Add the loss of 147  at JSO and also shortages in the FHP and we have a perfect storm rising.  It’s no wonder horrific crashes are happening in broad daylight in many areas of Jacksonville.

And I saw on the TV news that Shands Hospital has something like $1 million dollars lost from taking care of those who are not paying for their medical bills-many of which come as a result of car crashes.  So what is the solution?  We need this attacked from so many aspects it’s like a finger in the dam.  But the number one thing I would like to see is statistical inclusion of injuring people in car crashes as a violent criminal offense instead of a civil offense that only gets upgraded to criminal if it meets higher criteria.   Maybe this all isn’t even possible but the issue certainly needs some visiting.

Police Officers Need to Feel Safe too

December 12, 1995.  Just a few weeks before Christmas.  I was working as a staff photographer for the local newspaper. A call went out that a police officer had been shot on the Northside of Jacksonville.   I had friends who were officers. One of them worked on the Northside and had not answered a cell phone call from me shortly before.  When I arrived in the area I couldn’t get close to the scene because it was blocked by police.  Neighbors outside the police tape gave me permission to go into their backyard to get closer.

I heard live gunfire.  Onlookers told me the officer who had been shot was still on the landing at the top of the second floor of an outdoor staircase.  No one knew if the officer was still alive or bleeding to death.  I tried again to call my friend back.  Still no answer. Two officers from the SWAT team  managed to get up those stairs and get that officer out.  I saw officers I knew with tears in their eyes as they left the scene.  I still heard live gunfire.

The sheriff and the public information officer arrived at the scene.  They did a standup interview for the TV news cameras.  I headed back  to my car because the last picture I ever wanted to come back with was the “talking headshots”  with microphones in front of TV cameras telling me what had just happened.  I found out later that the officer did not make it.  I did not know him. I went home and cried.  I even returned to the scene days later and found a working black flashlight in the grass nearby.  I took it home.

I’m a real police photojournalist.  When I ride with police since then I wear a bulletproof vest.   One of the SWAT Officers who tried to save that officer’s life that night almost 20 years ago is now running for sheriff of Duval County.   I trust Mike Williams to keep my police officers safe so they can stay alive to keep you and me safer in our community.

Public Safety starts with Personal Responsibility

It was Halloween night.  I was 12 or 13 years old. I had gone to a party at a friend’s house after Trick-or-Treating because her parents weren’t home.  It was late.  It was dark.  I made the decision to walk the mile or so home alone with my pillowcase of candy.  Why?  Because I had walked home alone like this many nights before and felt safer on the streets of my neighborhood than I did many times in my own home.  I knew basic street safety.  If a car slows down,  run up a driveway and through the nearest back yard,  hide in the shadows till it’s safe, wait for them to pass or if they get out of their car listen for their breathing, when they are gone come out of hiding, and fence jump back to my house.  No flashlight.  Just the gut instincts honed from an education of my short life experiences.

As I walked I heard the telltale signs of the car crawling along behind me. I heard the boys laughing, slurring and yelling out of the car window-at me.  I kept walking  and heard the voice of one of the boys.

“We’re gonna rape you!”

The others in the car laughed and I ran full speed up the nearest driveway.  Unfortunately it was a church driveway and as I ran I heard the car driving up behind me.  I heard myself screaming.  I realized that if I kept running straight I would run off a cliff.  You see the back of the church parking lot overlooked an area of the Cleveland Metroparks System.  I turned to the right and dove behind a bush but the area was too well lit and I knew I couldn’t hide.  I got up and ran screaming to the right toward the closest house.  I heard what sounded like gunfire and someone chasing me on foot.  As I fell forward screaming and crying banging for help on the door I heard a man yelling from behind me.

“Stop! It’s okay!  I’m a Police Officer!”

I looked into the startled eyes of the older woman who was peering at me from inside the safety of her screen. I collapsed crying on the ground.  The officer picked me up, calmed me down and somehow walked me home.  I remember later standing in my living room and watching while the police officer explained to my crying mother what had happened that night.

The next day my older brother told me some boys at school were boasting about scaring a girl on Halloween.

The officer was a member of Cleveland’s Auxiliary Police, his walking beat was my neighborhood and he lived a block away from my family home.  I never spoke to him.  A few years after that incident I heard he died of cancer.

The events of that night were always a little embarrassing to me because I was just this tiny tough kid trying to survive and thrive in a frequently violent environment.  Approximately thirty years later at my father’s funeral I spoke to the officer’s widow about it.  She said he never even mentioned to her what happened that night.

Now I see things differently.  I have learned to appreciate that everyone makes mistakes and at any time could be in need of strong yet compassionate police officers to come to their rescue. I hope we make the right choice today in our decision on who will lead them.

I believe that leader is Mike Williams for Sheriff of Duval County Florida.

Do the public really want Safety and are they willing to Fund it?

We live in a circle of Safety in Jacksonville.  As children we ideally have parents and teachers, police and fire, doctors and lawyers and more who are there to keep us safe.  We have things made childproof, we have seat belts, helmets, fire drills and fire doors and lower flashing speed limits but do we ever really question why they are there?  Because somewhere in history somebody died because they did not have safety.  Somebody we don’t know paid the cost.  We are grown now and we still want to feel safe.  But somewhere everyday – whether its our military,  our police, our fire or just an ordinary citizen- somebody is dying because they didn’t have safety.   A family burns to death in full view of daytime commuters on a bridge called safe.  Everyone feels terrible for a few days.  They don’t want this to happen and they certainly don’t want to see it.  But what they don’t realize is that horrible situations happen a lot more here than show up on the news. They are a daily burden our first responders  clean up so we don’t have to see.  The shootings, the car crashes, everything terrible that we hear about  on the news they live with everyday.   And sometimes those first responders have to clean up the bodies of their own.  Would u want to live with that burden?

Could a Police & Fire Thrift Store finance the Pension Fund shortfall?

I see it everywhere I visit. Thrift stores as private profitable enterprises which help finance worthy causes while also becoming a cash cow.   Outside of Washington D.C. they have Savers.  Savers was created by the same people who brought you the Salvation Army.  Goodwill is another name everyone knows which is a for-profit enterprise. The Thrift Store in Jacksonville also helps Vietnam Veterans.  Others finance Purple Heart…etc the list goes on. The way they seem to work is:  you donate your unwanted stuff and they sell it with a percentage either being paid upfront or donated after the sale to a specific cause.   Although I have never seen any of these budgets or results it seems to me like a lot of money is changing hands and everybody wins. Certainly this same principle could be used to create a Police & Fire Thrift Store.  In addition some items that are more valuable could be purchased for resale or consigned.

This could also be a solution for unnecessary landfill items.  Apartment complexes seem to have such a high resident turnover rate that time runs out to get rid of stuff.   Where I live we joke that our trash area is like Goodwill.   I frequently take photos of items that are left there and text them to a local resale guy for pick up.  One day recently there was so much stuff left there that I mistakenly thought someone had been evicted.   I grabbed a few especially nice items, placed them online and sold them myself.   This is small potatoes that could be multiplied around town.  If we could get a countywide effort with a catchy title (sorry can’t think of one to target specific donations from the approximately 3000 Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office employees,  add in the JFRD, local military and all their combined families and retirees….you get the picture.  I joked the other day that if everyone in the city of Jacksonville had a yard sale and donated $50 to the pension fund we would have $50 million dollars in the fund.  I know some see this as just a  joke or not feasible but I think it can be done through the creation of a Police & Fire Thrift store.  I think it is good for the environment and good for Jacksonville’s underfunded Police and Fire Pension Fund and I would love to be part of this solution.

Does Crime Fighting Need the Race Card?

We know the names of the cities and the supposed victims.  We have an African American President and also an African American Mayor and still crime continues in the highest numbers in predominately black communities.  A hugely imbalanced amount of  the majority of Police and Fire  resources as well as money from social entitlement programs are hemorrhaged into those communities and still high violent crime rates continue.  We are told that African Americans make up an inordinately high percentage of  the inmate population.   Everybody has a finger-pointing solution.  But the one element that is not addressed is this:  no one makes the choice for the individual to commit crime except that individual.  Personal bad choices determine many bad outcomes.  Own it.  Stop the urban terrorism.   You the criminal.   Circumstances do not excuse your bad choices and the only ones who can stop you the criminal is you and the officer who comes to deal with you and the fallout from your behavior.

However all children need from an early age to have loving committed caregivers and cherished role models.  I think with the breakdown of the family structure this is severely lacking in many homes in all communities.  I have also seen many instances of positive interaction between police officers and children.  I think that if every officer on our JSO built a mentoring relationship with one at-risk child  for the duration of their entire careers a huge positive difference would be made in the quality of life for all in all parts of Jacksonville.  All of Jacksonville’s children matter.  In my years as a teacher and a nanny I feel I was able to make the most difference in the lives of the children who had the most challenges.   Anyone who cares can make a lifelong positive difference in the lives of children.  And I’m not talking just about police.  I challenge firefighters,  nurses, doctors -anyone who has some extra time- to step up.  The words of my favorite President echo back to me: “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your Country.”   Pay it Forward.  Everyone has something they can give back.  Be the difference in someone’s life today.  We the People can do our part to stop generational criminal behavior.



If u become the Sheriff who will be your # 2?

Two important questions that were not asked at the Sheriffs Debate last night: who are u gonna pick for undersheriff if u win and how will both of u help improve morale among officers so they stop leaving the agency? And -without giving away your strategy-what steps in the area of terrorism protection are u going to give the citizens to empower the people of Jax to protect themselves from homegrown street terrorists? (aka street shooters like Jax Beach the other nite or even suicide bombers). I know we don’t want to think about it but we need to be proactively prepared to handle anything.

Dream Team Triangle of Safety

Who is it. What is it.  and why is this important for our city?

It is having great leaders in three key positions in the city who can coordinate everyone else to handle any major crisis. I believe these 3 are Mike Williams as Sheriff; Mincy Pollock as City Council at Large Group 3 and Tracie Davis for Supervisor of Elections.  After 9-11 I personally saw a lot of wasted resources that delayed progress because of territorial lack of communication and trust among our first responders.  In a huge crisis many people fall apart and just can’t focus as they need to. I saw in these three people a quality I call Crisis Comfort that allows them to step up and function at a higher level when all Hell breaks loose. I know we have other people who also have some great qualities but I did not see a glimpse of this same level in others. We must expect the best but prepare for the worst. And have those best leaders in the right position in case we need them.

Blue Line of Safety

In the post 9-11 era we have many people here now in place in America who want to retaliate and blow us up when an opportunity of vulnerability presents itself. This is not a pleasant reality. But the reason we can sleep at night is because we have a JSO system in place in Jax working diligently to be the thin blue line of safety. Mike Williams has been instrumental in leading that aspect of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office organization. We need Mike Williams as our next sheriff AKA Jacksonville’s Number One Bodyguard.