City of Jacksonville


Parks Task Force Committee

Minutes of Safety Sub-Committee Meeting

November 10, 2004

I. Date, Time, Place, Attendees

A. Date, Time, Place of Meeting

Date of Meeting: November 10, 2004

Place: Office of the Mayor, Conference Room

Time: 4 - 5:30 PM

B. Attendees

    1. Coen Purvis, Chair
    2. Robert Joseph
    3. Laurie McEwen
    4. Phil Bruce
    5. Elizabeth Kohler
    6. Mark Middlebrook
    7. Frank Mackesy
    8. Bob Baughman

II. The Meeting

Chairman Purvis welcomed Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) Director Frank Mackesy and thanked him for coming to the meeting. Director Mackesy asked the group what is the main purpose of security in the parks? If we go with the model that utilizes the JSO Community Service Officers (CSOs), there will be less of a security authority in the parks. CSOs help to free up the JSO officers to do activities that require badges and guns. CSOs do litter control, traffic control, etc. and have no arrest authority. CSOs could provide a presence in parks. CSOs can only be in the program for five years. Unless we change the ordinance to allow police to enforce park rules, CSOs would have little arrest power.

Chairman Purvis indicated that the group was thinking of using the CSOs for their presence and not for arresting power.

Director Mackesy indicated that certainly that would help, but there is a lot of criminal activity in parks. JSO now only has the number of officers to go to parks on a need-by-need basis, and right now he is understaffed. Regarding the CSO program, currently there are 25, but they are still in training. When they are finished with the training, they will be dispatched like other officers.

Baughman asked Mackesy if he would want to use parks as a training ground by having a 'CSO park rotation.' Mackesy indicated that if providing a presence is the goal, why not hire civilians who would work for the Parks and Recreation Department and wear a ranger uniform.

Commissioner Joseph specified that his Florida Parks Service (FPS) staff wear Ranger uniforms, and although most people know the Rangers do not have arrest power, they still serve as effective eyes and ears for the park and a presence to deter criminal activity. The FPS 'Rangers' also give park directions; help to maintain the park, etc. Those who are trained know about the resource are the most effective, and FPS has instituted a training program to this affect.

Mackesy suggested that the Task Force and the Parks Department focus on this type of Ranger program and hit those parks that are the most problematic. Additionally, if the long range goal is to have law enforcement authorities in parks, then the officers should come under JSO. Why? JSO already has liability taken care of and they are the experts in law enforcement. JSO currently provides officers to schools (School Resource Officers) and to the Port Authority, but they are through the JSO system.

Commissioner Purvis asked about how JSO keeps control and ensures those officers are doing their job.

Mackesy described the situation at the Port as an example: There are 12 officers and 2 supervisors. The Port pays for salaries and equipment, and the officers support the Port goals. But, JSO has control over which officers are assigned to the Port, and potentially reassigned. It is important to have the supervisors in place. As another example, Mackesy described that if one of the JSO officers assigned to Mallison Park needs discipline, he/she will receive it from JSO not Parks Department. The officers report to the Port, or to the School, or to the Parks Department each day, as determined by the Port/ School/ Department.

Mackesy then elaborated that it is crucial to have all individuals with arrest power working under the protection of the accredited police agency operating under nationally established rules and regulations.

Commissioner Joseph seconded that the Task Force should not recommend that the Parks Department become involved in criminal enforcement issues, as this should be left to the professionals. But having a Ranger program would allow for a presence in the parks and for trained individuals to communicate appropriated with JSO as to where the problem areas are, etc.

Mackesy said that certainly the Parks Director could highlight the problem areas to JSO, and he also mentioned that Hanna Park is a good example of a successful model of officers in parks.

Middlebrook asked Mackesy for his input on how it might work with preventing wildlife infractions such as poaching?

Mackesy said that it would be up to the Parks Department to ensure the JSO officers assigned to Parks had the necessary special training to deal with such issues. If poaching, etc. is a state law, JSO officers can enforce those laws (unless there is some stipulation indicating otherwise). Officers may require some state certifications. Currently JSO works with Fish and Wildlife if the incident warrants contacting them.

Commissioner Joseph recommended implementing the training, as the large tracts of preservation lands will require this type of enforcement, and added that there should be a body of funds for resource training. He also suggested that, as part of the partnership between FPS and the City, his team could train the JSO officers assigned to parks on issues specific to field work.

Mackesy summarized that an ideal solution would be to add six or seven JSO officers plus a supervisor to the Parks Department budget. These folks are then tied to the JSO system and they are highly trained investigators, but they work for the goals of the Parks Department. Mackesy indicated that having six officers would justify having a full-time supervisor, especially because the officers would be spread out over six planning districts. The supervisor could meet with leaders of the Parks Department weekly to cover priorities, problem areas, etc.

Commissioner Joseph said that having a supervisor assigned to the officers creates an autonomous unit and minimizes dual supervision.

Mackesy said that having such a unit would allow the Parks Department to have a reliable force; JSO has to prioritize, and Parks often do not make the top of the list.

Chairman Purvis told Director Mackesy that if there is a memorandum of agreement between JSO and the Port, he would be interested in receiving a copy of it.

Baughman reviewed costs and indicated that it costs $100,000 per officer assigned for the first year (much of this is one-time equipment and vehicle costs).

Mackesy estimated that it would cost the Parks Department $750,000 for six officers plus a sergeant, depending on whether there two supervisors for two different shifts, etc. He said that if the Department had six officers like Officer Laurie McEwen, then park safety would improve 100% because he has that much confidence in Officer McEwen. He also suggested looking further into the possibility of a Ranger who has the ability to enforce park rules under the ordinance of the law. The Rangers would have the ability to write tickets. An example for comparison would be the statue that allows for parking enforcement specialists to write tickets and these specialists are not JSO officers. Also, COJ has armed security guard positions and we could expand on this too. Use of Rangers and CSOs would be cheaper than hiring officers, but would not be as effective.

Baughman said he felt that Rangers would be more effective than CSOs, if the Department was to fund the whole security package. Baughman added that for budgeting of officers, the group must consider costs related to training, benefits, number of 4-wheel drive trucks vs. cars, etc.

Middlebrook indicted that having Rangers as part of the solution would help in that the Rangers could write down tag numbers, etc.

Chairman Purvis summarized that the group would recommend six officers, one per planning district, plus one supervisor. The Park ranger recommendations would stay as recommended during the last Safety sub-committee meeting, with 2 Rangers per planning district. The CSO program would need to be discussed further with JSO to ensure would be beneficial both for JSO and for parks security.

Baughman said the CSO program would be most beneficial if the officers were permanently assigned to parks duty. If the Parks Department had to pay for the CSOs in order to have them be dedicated to parks, then it would be a better use of funds to pay for the Ranger and JSO officer positions.

Chairman Purvis thanked everyone for coming and adjourned the meeting. The next meeting is tentatively set for Monday, November 29th at 3:00 p.m.