PerspectivesNikesha Elise Williams Jacksonville Today Contributor

OPINION | Who’s policing the police?

Published on October 25, 2021 at 9:03 pm
Jacksonville Today seeks to include a diverse set of perspectives that add context or unique insight to the news of the day. Regular opinion columnists are independent contractors who are not involved in news decisions. Want to submit your own column on a matter of public interest? Email pitches to

My son is 6
He likes to run 
I encourage him to go the distance

Jury selection is underway in the murder trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia, about an hour’s drive north of Jacksonville. The murder trial quite possibly would never have happened if the video of Arbery being stalked, cornered, and gunned down by racist vigilantes while on an afternoon run had not been leaked and released. 

Jacksonville Today thanks our sponsors. Become one.

To pound the pavement 
Or the grass of our yard 
Or the carpet of our home 
Anything that will meet his feet 
As they beat across the ground 
Man made or made by God 
And he is proud

After the shooting in late February 2020, none of the suspects were arrested. Gregory McMichael was a former police officer. The prosecutor was later charged with obstruction for telling officers not to arrest Travis McMichael on the day of the shooting.

He wants to be fast 
Faster than his brother 
Definitely faster than his mother 

Article continues below

Jacksonville Today thanks our sponsors. Become one.

With this high-profile trial serving as the background, let’s get to the main event. Jacksonville’s Safer Together Committee is no more. Formed amidst the 2020 racial unrest sparked by the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and ignited by the flagrant murder of George Floyd, this committee was supposed to bring the stakeholders to the table to do the healing work of relationship repair. 

Floating on the wind 
Feet swift 
Toes quick 
Ankles nimble 
Body limber

However, that relationship repair work won’t be moving forward since the community advocates refuse to back down on their request for a civilian review board. They shouldn’t. If JSO pressured the co-chair of the committee, Councilman Michael Boylan, to walk away because of the insistence of a civilian review board they are wrong. I repeat, JSO is wrong. So is council president Sam Newby for terminating the committee. 

I smile as he runs 
Panting and puffing 
Wanting to go faster still 
So I strap on his parachute
And he takes off 
Air billowing beneath his sails 

Police violence is disproportionately wrought on Black bodies. The effort made to rectify systemic wrongs in the city of Jacksonville should not crumble because the work is hard, because the people are demanding that they be treated justly and humanely. We are not looking for better treatment or special treatment. Only equal treatment. 

He doesn’t fall 
He doesn’t fail 
He runs fast

The murders of Arbery, Taylor, Floyd and countless others need to remain constant reminders, not momentary blips on the radar, that this city, this state, this country has a policing problem when it comes to how to protect and serve Black people. The problem was built by the institution of slavery and sustained by white supremacy. It takes a lot to dismantle these systems but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It doesn’t mean that police shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable because they are being held accountable. 

And then 

Just look at what happened during the insurrection on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol. Police officers were part of the mob who attacked the very fabric of our democracy. If it’s okay for those “bad actors” to be held accountable for their crime then all officers at every level, including JSO, should be held accountable for how they treat the people they swore to serve. There needs to be a governing body policing the police. 

This could get him killed.

I get it. No one likes being policed. But maybe that’s the point. 

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Nikesha Elise Williams is an Emmy-winning TV producer, award-winning novelist (Beyond Bourbon Street and Four Women) and the host/producer of the Black & Published podcast. Her bylines include The Washington Post, ESSENCE, and Vox. She lives in Jacksonville with her family.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.