Orange County

Orange County mayor encourages policing discussion to continue, says law enforcement agencies shouldn’t fear public review

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The leader of Orange County brings a unique perspective to the demonstrations across the nation and local communities in recent days.

Former Orange County sheriff and current-mayor Jerry Demings spoke to Channel 9 about being a black man in law enforcement and about ongoing tensions between protesters and police on the same day he hosted a virtual town hall meeting to address the issues involved in George Floyd case.

Demings spent nearly 40 years working in law enforcement. He said all officers bring inherent bias to the job of policing, and that policies should be constantly under revision and reform.

READ: Caught on camera: 75-year-old man pushed down by police during protests, officers suspended

"Good law enforcement agencies should not be afraid to open themselves up for review by the public," he said.

Demings said movements like what is happening now are vital to ensure they are providing the type of service citizens demand and deserve.

"They're engaged in a healthy, wholesome dialogue with law enforcement,” he said. “And I encourage that to continue."

During the virtual town hall meeting, attendees including Congresswoman Val Demings, State Attorney Aramis Ayala, Police Chief Orlando Rolon and Orange County Sheriff John Mina condemned the actions of the officers in Minneapolis.

Many of the suggestions for change during the meeting included things related to police accountability.

Congresswoman Demings said she believes law enforcement agencies need to be proactive in looking at policies to see if there is anything that should be changed before something bad happens.

A handful of speakers said the police departments and the unions need to do a better job of weeding out bad officers instead of protecting them.

READ: George Floyd protests live updates: Hundreds continue to march in downtown Orlando

When asked about tear gas being deployed and the case of an Orange County deputy breaking out a woman's car window during a traffic stop during the Channel 9 interview, Demings said he didn't want to comment without knowing the full details and context.

"Will there be some police officers because of being chronically stressed, a lot of anxiety associated with the time that we're living in… are some going to misbehave, miscalculate the response they should proceed with in some of these circumstances? Yes," he said.

But Demings told Channel 9 that policing is a tough job and that the overwhelming majority of officers, regardless of their race, are good people. He said he encourages others who want to see change to be the change.

READ: Deputies, police take extra precautions this weekend in Daytona Beach amid protests, events postponed

“Become law enforcement officers and put yourself in that situation where you are out, perhaps, policing,” Demings said. “If you care about the community, look for those opportunities to get engaged.”

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.