The following letter was obtained by My Social Jacksonville and was included in the packet distributed to Village of South Jacksonville Board of Trustee members for the Thursday, March 24, 2016 Special Session. It is reprinted in its entirety.
Village Board Member, (sic)
My intention was to address this letter to the Village board of trustees at the next board meeting but as a new Chief there are a few training sessions that are required of me and because of one of those sessions, I am in Peoria, Illinois tonight.
On March 9, members of law enforcement, Fire Departments, and EMS agencies from across the United States gathered in South Jacksonville to bury one of our own officers killed in the line of duty. This loss has been devastating to us at SJPD as Scot was not only just a co-worker but he was a close personal friend to all of us.
But, on the same day, honestly before my eyes had dried from the tears and before my head started to clear from the gut-wrenching, confusing feelings of the day, I received a phone call from a board member who stated to me, “I know you’ve had a rough week, but it looks like the village crap is starting back up again.” It was then explained to me that the problem was that a village employee had been seen by another board member driving my squad car back to the police department from First Christian Church.
I was informed that this (#1) could be a problem with public perception having non-uniformed village employees driving a marked squad car, (#2) that those board members were pretty sure that the Village insurance policy did not allow for that and (#3) the board would be addressing this at the next board meeting.
On the day this employee was seen driving my squad car, this was the situation: Between myself, my wife, my son and this employee of the Village returning to town from the funeral, the employee and I were the only two people who could legally drive a village owned vehicle. I needed to remove Scot Fitzgerald’s squad car from the front lawn of First Christian Church and get my squad car back to the police department at the same time. It was during that short, drive back to the department that this employee was seen driving my squad car.
Let me first talk about public perception, non-police village employees have been driving marked squad cars at the discretion of the Chief of Police for years. These employees have been, are and will continue to be covered by the Village of South Jacksonville’s insurance policy. Sometimes we need assistance getting a car to a garage for repairs, sometimes paperwork needs to be delivered to the courthouse. There are thousands of examples of this occurring every day in all police and sheriff’s departments of our size all over the country.
The problem as I see it is not one of public perception because for all the years this has been occurring I have never heard a single complaint about it from the general public. The Village President and I have satisfied our curiosities with our fleet insurance policy through contact with our insurance agent and discussing the matter to the extent that I believe this is a non-issue.
I am not going to discuss my disappointment, and utter disgust that this was the most important issue of the day for this board member… To that board member, you should know that my faith in your integrity and ability to lead as a board member has been called into question. How difficult would it have been to look into the matter of insurance coverage yourself? How difficult would it have been for you to wait even a few days before the sting of burying my police brother had lessened before you called about such an issue?
To the rest of the board members, I urge you to continue to work towards the betterment of the Village of South Jacksonville and know that I am a partner with you in this regard. The South Jacksonville Police Department will recover from the loss of our brother and honor him by continuing to serve with pride and integrity.