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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Nearly 100 attend police meeting to get community feedback

The Gainesville Police Department held the first of two community meetings Tuesday as part of a program designed to review department practices after recent scandal within the department.

In November, GPD came under fire when three police officers threw eggs at prostitutes in high-crime areas.

GPD decided to seek help from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, which addresses crime in low-income areas, according to GPD officer Jeff McAdams. Seven representatives from NOBLE attended the meeting and will remain in Gainesville throughout the process.

McAdams said during the meeting that City Manager Russ Blackburn paid NOBLE $50,000 to fix the error of giving the officers warnings instead of more severe punishment, causing unrest in the black community.

Many black locals, including high school students, described GPD police officers in the downtown community meeting as unprofessional.

People demanded a community review board to assess the conduct of officers but were denied, according to the residents.

"What started this process is a gross error in management policy," McAdams said. "Management tried to spin this thing with the egg-throwing incident, coincidentally in a black neighborhood."

McAdams said NOBLE would not have been involved if some form of punishment were placed on the three officers, like suspension or termination.

Eastside High School student Brandon Jones, 16, said he is tired of being harassed by police.

Jones said he was once followed half a mile by "bored cops." The officers pulled him over and gave him a ticket for a taillight that wasn't working.

"This is poor judgment in the officers' character," he said.

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Victoria L. Robertson, another resident, said she was harassed by GPD officers for a second-degree misdemeanor, which landed her in jail.

Robertson cried throughout the meeting while explaining her encounters with the police. She was arrested for a moving traffic violation and for violating restrictions placed on her driver's license, according to police records.

The second meeting will be held tonight at the Gainesville Police Department multipurpose room, 721 NW Sixth St., at 11:30 a.m.

To hear locals talk about their experiences with Gainesville police, see alligator.org.

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