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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Apr. 27, 202105:10 AM EST

JSO director says he agrees with Chauvin guilty verdict

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Director of Investigations and Homeland Security Mike Bruno says convicted police officer’s conduct was “so out of bounds, it’s indefensible.”
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Director Mike Bruno agrees with the jury’s verdict of guilty rendered in police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial on multiple counts of murder and manslaughter last week in Minneapolis.

Speaking April 26 to the Meninak Club of Jacksonville, Bruno said he found it difficult to watch the nearly 10-minute video of Chauvin pressing his knee onto George Floyd’s neck while Floyd was lying face down and handcuffed in the street.

“It’s so out of bounds, it’s indefensible,” Bruno said.

He said that as bad as Chauvin’s conduct was during the arrest, it’s even worse that three additional officers were there, but took no action. All of them stood by while witnesses pleaded with them to reduce the restraint on Floyd.

“That’s nowhere near what law enforcement should be. I find it hard to believe that someone can be so callous,” Bruno said.

Bruno spoke to the club after Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams had to decline because of a family issue.

History with JSO

Bruno joined JSO in 1994 as a corrections officer. He later became a police officer and in 2000 was certified by the FBI in bomb disposal. He rose in the department to commander of the Downtown Zone and also led JSO’s Internal Affairs Division.

Williams promoted Bruno to director in 2014.

As a director, Bruno has overseen the Department for Patrol and Enforcement, the Department of Corrections and now serves as Director of Investigations and Homeland Security.

He has managed more than half of the agency’s nearly $500 million budget and led JSO’s more than 1,800 police officers and nearly 1,000 corrections staff.

Bruno said police officers in Jacksonville are trained to identify opportunities to de-escalate situations while fulfilling the commitment of their job to protect the public’s safety.

When an officer stops someone lawfully and detains them, there’s also an element of public and personal responsibility, he said.

“Allow the officer to do their job. Treat the officer respectfully.”

On the other hand, Bruno said he doesn’t support the movement to eliminate the qualified immunity legal doctrine that protects police officers from civil lawsuits based on their interaction with the public.

The U.S. Supreme Court approved the doctrine in 1967, Bruno said, because the court feared that officers might not be diligent in enforcing laws or making an arrest if they are concerned about being the defendant.

“An officer might rather face dereliction of duty charges rather than a civil lawsuit,” Bruno said.

There’s also a great responsibility required of law enforcement personnel.

“To get qualified immunity, an officer has to comply with federal and state laws, department policy and training. It’s not a blank check to violate someone’s rights,” Bruno said.

He also commented on HB-1, the much-discussed law approved by the Legislature that was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. It’s sometimes referred to as the “anti-riot law.”

“HB-1 doesn’t stop people from protesting. It enhances penalties for people who break the law, injure police officers or destroy property,” Bruno said.

“If you’re protesting lawfully, that right is still protected.”

About running for sheriff

Asked whether he is considering running for sheriff to succeed Williams, who is term-limited, Bruno wouldn’t detail his intentions.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work for four outstanding sheriffs since 1994. It’s extremely flattering and humbling for someone to think I’m of that caliber.

“I’m talking to my family and we’re praying about it.”

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