Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Some Worrying Why Police Shootings Rise; SHERIFF'S OFFICE Rutherford Says There's an Attitude about Taking on the Police. COMMUNITY Some Say It's Not Helping Efforts to Get More People to Fight Crime

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Some Worrying Why Police Shootings Rise; SHERIFF'S OFFICE Rutherford Says There's an Attitude about Taking on the Police. COMMUNITY Some Say It's Not Helping Efforts to Get More People to Fight Crime

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT GALNOR

About three months into this year, Jacksonville police have already shot more people than they did in 2004, 2005 or 2006.

The uptick began in 2007 when 19 people were shot - more than in the past three years combined.

And while experts say police shootings may be on the rise nationally, Jacksonville has more than double the shootings since 2007 of many cities of comparable size.

Some community leaders say the shootings are eroding trust in the high-crime neighborhoods just as Sheriff John Rutherford seeks a buy-in from residents in stopping the crime problem. Calls for an independent, citizen review board are resurfacing. Rutherford says his officers are shooting because suspects are putting police in positions where they have no choice.

"I challenge anyone to tell me which one of those we shouldn't have shot," Rutherford said, adding that officers did not shoot in several instances where they would have been legally justified to do so.

There have been eight police shootings in Jacksonville so far this year, six of them fatal. An off-duty Jacksonville officer also killed a suspect in St. Johns County.

In 2007, nine of the shootings were fatal, though twice it was ruled the fatal shot was self-inflicted.

Rutherford says the increase is the result of the "gratuitous nature" of violence in Jacksonville and suspects taking the cops on.

But analysts say that does not explain why Jacksonville, since the start of 2007, would have more police shootings than Miami, Orlando and Tampa combined. Jacksonville had 27 shootings, while the other three cities combined had 23.

"Would you really think that cop-shooters gravitate toward Jacksonville more than Miami?" asked Ken Adams, a public policy and criminal justice professor at the University of Central Florida who has studied police use of force for a decade.

Rutherford says Jacksonville has a younger population than other Florida cities but added he didn't have a specific reason why more people in Jacksonville would choose to be violent with police.

Suspects had a gun in all but four of the shootings and half shot at police first, Rutherford said. In the other cases, two suspects had knives and two others tried to run officers over with their car, Rutherford said.

Rutherford pointed to several examples where officers would have been legally justified to shoot but instead used a Taser or solved the problem in another way.

Other causes of the increase in police shootings, Rutherford said, are a shortage of police officers and the aging of children born in the crack boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Those kids are now teens and young adults growing up in a culture of drugs and thuggery where it's accepted to shoot at police, Rutherford said.

SEEKING A SOLUTION

Some community leaders want Rutherford to examine how his officers are trained and what can be done about the shootings. And Rutherford's standard cry of getting the "gun-toting thugs" off the street angers others who say it doesn't help tensions between officers and the community.

"The sheriff has drawn a line in the sand that it's us against them," said Juan Gray, board chairman of the Jacksonville chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

When police shootings are on the rise, people normally point the blame at the police, said Thomas Aveni, a researcher and consultant with the Police Policy Studies Council.

But police are reacting to the situations and have little to do with increases, said Aveni, who has been a police officer and trainer for more than 30 years. He also holds seminars on the use of deadly force.

"If you chose to pull a gun on a police officer or shoot at a police officers, you should expect to be shot back at," said Nelson Cuba, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.