The city of Gainesville has signed on to a nationwide initiative meant to lower high jail populations.
The initiative, from the National League of Cities, will tackle city practices that contribute to racial and ethic disparities. In the end, it’s meant to reduce jail populations through city leadership, including through improved police and community relations.
Gainesville is one of five major cities from around the country that will participate.
“We have a far too high rate of disproportionate minority contact,” Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said. “We are arresting too many young, black men.
“There is a big link between that and poverty, and we know we have some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the state.”
Poe said there will be a focus on outreach events and diversity training for city employees.
“The end goal is that, if they never get arrested in the first place because we are able to intervene and create meaningful ways to help them and keep them out of the system, then this benefits everybody,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office has had a racial disparity program in place for two years. The program connects law enforcement with the community to focus on why people feel law enforcement may abuse authority, according to Sgt. Paul Pardue.
Pardue said that the new National League of Cities initiative will continue to help the community’s social climate.