“I don’t have the ability to call off the convention but I don’t have what I need to keep us safe,” Williams tells News4Jax.
By Kent Justice & Steve Patrick
Sheriff Mike Williams said July 20 there’s not enough time, money or officers to keep everyone safe during the Republican National Convention coming to Jacksonville in just over one month.
Williams cites lack of clear plans, inadequate funding and an insufficient amount of law enforcement personnel to handle the delegates, visitors and potential protestors that the Aug. 24-27 RNC would attract to Jacksonville.
“I don’t have the ability to call off the convention but I don’t have what I need to keep us safe,” Williams told News4Jax. “We are past the point of no return.”
Williams told Politico that a pledged $50 million grant to help with security has been paired back to $33 million and there are strings attached that make letting contracts too difficult. Not to mention that plans for the events and venues are still not solidified.
Security would have to change considerably from an event inside the VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena -- as originally planned -- to events to multiple outdoor venues, ad the RNC chairman described last week to allow crowds to attend in order to comply with coronavirus guidelines as infections have gone up exponentially since the convention was moved from Charlotte to Jacksonville last month.
Williams said the short timeline is the biggest challenge.
“Our hands are tied,” Williams said.
Williams said Mayor Lenny Curry is aware of his concerns. News4Jax is told to expect a statement form Curry’s office.
Politico said it obtained a letter from the Florida Sheriffs Association in early July that asked departments in the state’s 67 counties for 2,000 officers. Only 500 were able to go, Bob Gualtieri, president of the association and Pinellas County Sheriff told Politico over the weekend.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said securing an outdoor event would require many more police officers.
“You’re going to have to increase your manpower, maybe by 50% maybe more,” Jefferson said. “But at the minimum, say you had 100 officers in the arena, you would need to have at least 150 officers at another venue to help out.”
Legal issues are another matter. Last week, News4Jax told you about a lawsuit filed against the convention’s organizers, calling the event a “nuisance injurious” to the public health of the city’s residents.