In the midst of a pandemic, local governments had to deal with not only the severe cases of COVID-19 but also the mobilization of social justice movements in their communities.
This begs the question: How did local governments such as Orange County deal with such issues?
When asked this question, Orange County Mayor and former Chief of the Orlando Police Department Jerry Demings told the Florida Political Review that his experience in law enforcement helped him recall his myriad training in crisis management, which ranged from dealing with environmental issues to humanitarian problems.
Many of those with backgrounds in law enforcement who now work in government, including Demings, propose the “ICER” approach, which stands for “Isolate, Contain, Evaluate and Report.”
This method of dealing with crises was heavily relied on and helped build a foundation of recovery in Orange County. It helped create a system of trust between local officials and the people in the community.
This is exactly what the local government of Orange County wants: to keep the level of trust between law enforcement and its citizens high. Orange County Sheriff John W. Mina makes this goal clear as he wants residents “to feel comfortable interacting with law enforcement so that trust exists when they need our help.”
We can see the success of this trust already as vaccine numbers skyrocket to over 50% of Orange County’s population.
Similar in severity, Demings also viewed the increase in social justice movements catalyzed after George Floyd’s death through the lense of law enforcement.
There were demonstrations all over the country due to the outrage associated with the injustice done to Floyd, and these protests and assemblies were heavily present in Orange County.
Many Americans today see a massive divide between the African American community and law enforcement, yet there are members that embody both these aspects of life.
Demings is one of these members. Talking with him provided insight from someone who shares interests that encompass the well-being of both the African American community and the police force simultaneously.
“As an African American, I certainly understand the injustices of the African American people. I certainly understand that and certainly sympathize and empathize with all of that,” Demings said.
However, Demings made clear that under certain circumstances such as the pandemic, protests and acts of assembly to showcase their voice against these injustices might have been problematic.
“Sometimes the fundamental role of government is to help protect people from themselves without impeding or intruding on their Constitutional rights,” he said.
Many government officials are saying this resulting moral dilemma pits the safety of the people against their own freedom. Yet Demings heavily pushed the notion that protest limits, especially those protests that promote violence and picketing activities, would help protect the well-being and privacy of individuals residing in their homes and overall neighborhood tranquility.
“None of us have the right to destroy other people’s property or to injure others without some justification under the law,” Demings told the Florida Political Review.
This helped endorse the residential-targeted-picketing ordinance that was requested by Sheriff Mina. The ordinance would have forbade targeted residential protests.
Mina, who is also a former Orlando police chief and sheriff, stated the ordinance heavily supported the neighborhood’s peace and tranquility and did not intend to infringe on free speech.
Demings also prompted the idea that one’s personal First Amendment rights do not trump the rights of others stating, “People equally have a right of privacy and to be free in their own homes; how and where to strike that happy balance is what we were trying to do here in Orange County.”
The protection of people’s safety during protests appears to be a cause embraced across partisan lines, even though politicians have different views on how to achieve that safety.
“Earlier this year at my request, the legislature passed and I signed the strongest anti-riot bill in the country,” Governor Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, said at the Turning Point USA conference in July. “This bill is very simple. It says, if you riot, if you loot, if you’re violent, you are going to jail. It tells every Floridian that we are going to stand up for your safety.”
However, after a great deal of backlash from social justice groups and criticism from the community, Demings had to withdraw the ordinance as he felt the trust between the residents and law enforcement might be broken otherwise.
When it comes to undergoing violence in our community, Demings has one thing to say to that: “That’s not the America that we all know and love.”
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Featured Image by Mikhail Mikhaylov.