St Augustine Police Chief briefs City Commission on status of key initiatives

During this morning’s City Commission meeting, Monday June 8th, St Augustine Police Chief Barry Fox provided an update on the status of key initiatives in place at the Police Department.

On the heals of recent events, including the Minneapolis use of excessive police force that resulted in the death of George Floyd, Fox was noticeably tap dancing around a previously orchestrated announcement, in concert with outgoing Sheriff David Shoar (former St Augustine Police Chief) and his hand-picked successor, St Augustine Beach Chief of Police Rob Hardwick (former St Augustine Police Officer). 

A published article in the local newspaper ostensibly demonstrating solidarity between the three law enforcement agencies against the use of police body cameras was mostly a photo opportunity.

SAPD BARRY FOX | SJSO DAVID SHOAR | SABPD ROB HARDWICK

Hardwick’s political opponent, former Director of the Office of Sheriff, Chris Strickland, made it clear from the outset that he supports body cameras to be more transparent during interactions with the public.  Fox, Shoar and Hardwick each expressed their own reluctance to use the automatic video cameras.  None of the three agencies use body cameras currently.

It is rumored that the choice between Hardwick and Strickland will be made in a Republican-only Primary Election in August.  Somehow, as if by magic, police body cameras, only recently pronounced persona non grata by Fox, have become “a key initiative” at the Police Department.

BODY CAMERAS

  • The issue of body cameras is a continuing, rapidly evolving conversation
  • Chief, officers, and staff are in communication with community leaders regarding the issue
  • The department is researching purchasing and maintenance costs of the cameras

RESPONSE TO RESISTANCE POLICY

  • Extensive training is provided to all officers, including escalation, de-escalation, and disengagement tactics, as well as training in the proper use of weapons
  • Policy states that officers should use the least amount of force necessary to resolve a situation
  • All officers receive thorough training on the strategies outlined in this policy
  • The City Police Department does not teach, train, or endorse the use of neck restraints in non-lethal encounters

ACCREDITATION

  • Accreditation Officer, Jennifer Smalls, was hired February 2019
  • Started accreditation process December 17, 2019
  • Goal to be accredited by February 2021 has been delayed to June 2021 due to COVID-19
  • Have reviewed and updated policies to make sure they are in line with the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation

The St Augustine Police Department is the only law enforcement agency in St Johns County that holds no accreditation — neither national nor the less-stringent state accreditation.  The department has started, stopped, and re-started the accreditation process for a number of years; but, has never been accredited.