ICARE Justice Ministry Report: May 2024

Despite sheriff, ICARE’s social justice assembly draws a faithful crowd

Following a weeklong back-and-forth in the press, Sheriff T.K. Waters did not meet with faith leaders at ICARE’s annual Nehemiah Assembly. But three other Jacksonville officials and the city’s public defender did. 47 members from BBUUC joined with over 730 from other Jacksonville churches at the interfaith ministry event that calls on civic leaders to act on community problems.

When the Rev. Willie Barnes of St. Paul AME Church rallied the crowd, call-and-response style – “ICARE, do you want the shootings to stop?” – hundreds rose to their feet, clapped and cried “Yes!” as the ICARE team recorded their response to deliver to the sheriff.

Here’s how ICARE’s campaigns fared overall:

Address climate change WIN. following calls from ICARE and others, the city has now released its Resilience Strategy, a plan for Jacksonville to adapt to increased flooding and heat over the next 50 years.

“As a city with over xxx of waterfront, our relationship with water is both a great strength and our Achilles heel if we do not tackle the increasing challenges of climate change and flooding.” – Anne Coglianese, Jacksonville chief resilience officer

Support during a mental health crisis – PROGRESS. Sheriff T.K. Waters has not yet visited Miami, where police officers are trained in de-escalating people with mental illnesses and diverting them into treatment. But the mayor’s office has pledged to implement parts of the Miami model.

“The goal is to reduce the role of law enforcement in mental health crises as much as possible using mental health hotlines and crisis response teams, so we prioritize treatment over enforcement.” Tracye Polson, Jacksonville director of strategic partnerships

Reduce violent crime – INCOMPLETE. So far, Sheriff T.K. Waters has ignored ICARE’s call to get JSO’s Group Violence Intervention program evaluated to see why it’s failing to bring violent crime down here as it has in other cities. Despite the sheriff’s absence, faith leaders called on him to do something.

Rev.  Victor Cole, Historic Mt. Zion AME Church said “How could anyone want to continue with business as usual, when it means someone is murdered every week in this city?”

Rev. Micah Sims, Greater Grant AME Church said “There should be nothing that stands in our way. In the beloved community, we speak, we listen, we care, and we come together until things change,”

And Rev. Adam Gray, Riverside Church at Park and King said “The sheriff’s absence is an invitation to continue. Not an invitation to give up,”

In a public letter, Waters has agreed to meet with ICARE twice a year. ICARE is still waiting for the sheriff’s assistant to offer a date. Meanwhile, ICARE is planning a prayer vigil May 13 to honor people harmed by violence in Jacksonville.