City commission votes to make changes at GPD
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
The Gainesville City Commission held a meeting on August 10 to discuss changes for the Gainesville Police Department (GPD).
GPD’s presentation started with the goals they were given at the July 13 city commission meeting:
- Reduce non-violent arrests
- Reduce incarcerations
- Reduce disproportionate minority contacts
Various presenters for GPD described their next steps, which included an Adult Civil Citation Program (including hiring a temporary person to develop the ordinance, hiring staff, and updating policies, with the goal of going live on January 1, 2021), adding 3 more Mental Health Co-Responder teams (including applying for a federal grant to pay for one of them, with the goal of 4 teams by March, 2021), and making changes to the Police Service Technician (PST) Program (including changing the name to Community Service Technicians, filling vacancies, expanding the types of calls they will handle, and creating an evening shift; the city commissioners had previously said they were unhappy with the “para-military” shirt worn by PSTs and wanted a “softer” look, so they will be switching to polo shirts).
To expand the Community Resource Division, GPD plans to freeze two Police Officer positions to hire two Intervention Specialists for Reichert House (GPD’s program for at-risk youth), modify a contract with the School Board to fund teacher salaries at Reichert House, use operational savings to fund positions in the BOLD program, and seek grants to fund additional staff for the Interrupters program.
Commissioner Gail Johnson was enthusiastic about potentially funding these positions with grants: “More this!”
The presentation also discussed adding more types of incidents that can be reported online, delaying response to non-emergency crimes, and taking reports via phone when possible.
Some funds are being transferred from GPD to other departments: Fleet Manager funding of $63,820 is being transferred to Transportation and Mobility, returning an officer to the road, and 5 IT positions are being transferred to the City Technology and Information Department, along with $461,082.
Five years ago, GPD had 311 sworn officers. They removed 2 positions from Grace/Dignity, then removed 5 sworn officer positions and replaced them with PSTs, removed 5 more, removed a sworn officer position and replaced it with a Systems Tech, then removed a sworn officer position and replaced it with an Accreditation Manager.
The current proposal is to remove 8 more sworn officers, which will reduce the number of sworn officers to 289 (a 7% reduction since 2015).
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos wanted the city commission to add “a restriction on ourselves from purchasing military weaponry and maybe vehicles and things like that, just to kind of protect us for the future of not going a militaristic route.” He said he knew the police needed some of those resources, but he would “rather us go with those more police-designed vehicles than military vehicles.”
Commission Reina Saco added, “I do agree that I kind of want some kind of policy from us about, even if it’s a redundant statement that we do not purchase weapons… in writing, like, we do not do this… where we just state very bluntly on paper we do not purchase weapons. What we do purchase is this type of surplus equipment.”
Hayes-Santos moved to endorse the proposed GPD changes that were presented, request the City Attorney’s office to bring back more information on a City prosecutor’s office and to look at that as part of the Adult Civil Citation program; direct staff to create a policy to restrict the purchase of certain military surplus supplies, specifically weaponry and vehicles; ask staff to look at renaming the Police Service Technician program to be “a more community-oriented” name; and have staff look at the School Resource Officer uniform to make it “friendlier.”
That motion died for lack of a second.
Hayes-Santos then moved to endorse the proposed GPD changes that were presented; request the City Attorney’s office to bring back more information on a City prosecutor’s office and to look at that as part of the Adult Civil Citation program; and direct the City Manager to create a policy to restrict the purchase of certain military surplus supplies, specifically weaponry and vehicles. That one was seconded by Commissioner David Arreola.
Public comment lasted for almost 2.5 hours.
Comments ranged from supportive of the police to critical of the police; some requested that funding for the police department be spent elsewhere. A number of comments expressed support for Reichert House, although there was no proposal to cut its funding.
DeAndre Smith, for example, called in to say, “I don’t support defunding the police at all. People look at other cities and try to bring other cities’ problems to our city. Actually, the Gainesville police helped me out a lot. I was young… never really had a father figure or a role model, so I went to a program called Reichert House… helped me out a lot. They [were] that father figure that you actually need. They teach you a lot of good things… come check up on you in class, see how your grades going… And not only that, I [worked for Gainesville police] 5 years… People look at the police as… big, walking trouble figure, but that’s not really what it is. I think people need to stop bringing other cities’ problems to our city… If you defund police, somebody breaking into your house, who you going to call?… That’s a bad idea… I turned out into a great man… dream job and all. I just want to thank the Gainesville Police Department, Chief Tony Jones… [other staff members]… for making me the man I am today.”
A man who introduced himself as Mr. Ross said, “I would like to defend and not defund our police department. It just seems like these outside agendas want to take a national narrative and put it in our city. I want to commend Chief Jones and the police department, as well as the Reichert House… we don’t have the racial tension, as far as with our police departments, here that you see other places, it hasn’t been here, and I think that’s a direct reflection on the leadership.”
Johnson added an amendment to the motion to ask GPD to send a monthly report on people who are arrested by GPD. She also requested information on how the City Manager and Chief Jones decided on the best administration of Reichert House. City Manager Lee Feldman asked for clarification, since the city commission has in the past spoken against publishing mugshots because those people have not been convicted. He proposed redacting identifying information from the report, and Johnson thanked him “for catching that.”
Mayor Lauren Poe thanked everyone for their work, saying “this is light speed for government” and “the proof will be in the pudding, which is the budget that gets passed… in September.”
The vote was unanimous with Commissioner Gigi Simmons absent.
Thanks for standing up and speaking out like the man you have become Drag (DeAndre). I know the struggles you have overcome and I’m grateful God put our paths together. I hope you know how proud I am of you.
Yet this same group of self-serving politicians hired a security guard to protect people entering city hall in the mornings. Either there is enough crime they are concerned about it or they are afraid of the community and don’t want to be sued should another attack occur. Either way, their true lack of character and hypocrisy shines through.
One can only hope GPD officers will implement the”blue code” should any of these Draconian leaders call upon their services.
What a wonderful, wonderful world that would be…
Besides his getting fired, did anything ever come of Carlos Holt’s deep dive in to the Reichert House?