The Gainesville Police Advisory Council discussed Wednesday the process of internal and external GPD investigations as well as when officers should turn on their body cameras.
Advisory council member Keyon Young’s voice boomed into City Hall via Zoom as he demanded that Gainesville Police Department officers’ body cameras be on at all times.
“There are too many instances where we run into the officers not having the camera on,” Young said. “We’re leaving it up to the officer’s discretion and saying, ‘Hey … it was an accident.’”
Lt. Jaret Weiland, GPD’s internal affairs commander, said the cameras are turned on in 99% of the cases he investigates. They turn on automatically when a Taser is powered or when a gun is removed from its holster, and they record up to a minute before it was activated, Weiland said.
Young was involved in a high profile traffic stop in 2018, in which an Alachua County sheriff’s deputy pulled over the then-18 year old for an expired tag and speeding through a school zone. When Young refused to step out of his vehicle, a deputy pulled him from the car, while another pointed a Taser at him. A patrol car camera recorded the incident.
“It is your job to ensure that we know what’s going on,” Young, his voice raised for emphasis, told Weiland during the meeting. “So you have to make sure that the body camera is turned on.”
Florida law bars the council and public from reviewing open police investigations.
However, Weiland also reviewed for the council, which has several new members attending only their second meeting, the responsibilities and procedures of the internal affairs division.
In cases involving complaints against police officers, the division gathers facts and conducts interviews with witnesses as well as meets with Police Chief Tony Jones and Chief Inspector Jaime Kurnick regularly, Weiland said. The division uses artificial intelligence software to keep track of officers with repeated complaints, he said.
Council member Sheila Payne requested data on the types of police complaints the internal affairs division receives.
“Maybe that’s something that we can provide in our annual reports,” the lieutenant said.
Jones told the council that while crime in the city dropped by 5.4% overall last year, there has been a spike in the number of aggravated assaults.
“We are up by 53.76% compared to where we were last year,” he said.
The chief added: “That’s not Gainesville – that’s not the city that we live in.”
Jones said those crimes occurred across Gainesville, not in a specific area, and that he wants to address them and other offenses such as robberies and sexual batteries.
Gainesville resident Danielle Chanzes, a criminal justice reform advocate, told the council that most crimes committed these days are a result of poverty and hardships due to COVID-19. She asked the panel to bring more resources and programming into the community.
“I personally have not been able to pay my rent since December 2020, and I’ve had to rely on assistance from our city and county government,” Chanzes said. “It’s not surprising that we have these increases in crime.”
Jones also said he wants to address the concerns of Black residents who say they don’t have enough places to socialize in Gainesville. Bar owners, promoters and residents all raised concerns about the matter during a recent Black on Black Crime Task Force meeting.
The chief said he had assigned John Alexander, GPD’s interim community resources bureau and public affairs officer, to form an informal committee with bar and other entertainment owners to manage nightlife activity and provide alternatives.
The council meeting ended with a moment of silence for Eric Talley, the police officer who was among the 10 people killed during the supermarket shooting in Boulder, Colorado, on Monday. Talley, a father of seven, was the first officer to respond to the shooting.
Council member Milford Griner, a former officer with both the Santa Fe College and University of Florida police departments, said he wanted to acknowledge Talley’s heroism.
“That’s what it means to be a cop,” Griner said.