Jacksonville, Fla., Police 'Calls for Service' Website Halted Due to Safety Concerns

Pulling the plug was initiated a week ago after internal discussions over officer safety concerns “in light of recent events nationally.”

by Dan Scanlan, The Florida Times-Union / February 11, 2015
Officers from Jacksonville, Fla. Flickr/Mary Austin

(TSN) -- A website version of a police scanner introduced six months ago as part of a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office initiative to communicate with residents has been shut down over concerns about officer safety, according to police officials.

The callsforservice.jaxsheriff.org website, begun at the same time as a free AudioTraffic app that gives real-time traffic updates on smartphones, now shows a blank screen with the tiny words “This website is not available at this time.”

Pulling the plug was initiated a week ago by Sheriff John Rutherford’s special assistant, Lauri-Ellen Smith, after internal discussions over officer safety concerns “in light of recent events nationally.” She said the website may not be gone for good as Sheriff’s Office administrators continue to discuss it.

“Please know that in weighing the value of having the community know where police activity is occurring, there is also a concern that we don’t compromise officer safety,” Smith said in an email. “That is what we will continue to discuss. I have since been told that other agencies were also removing content with officer locations, although this wasn’t a factor for us. …”

Rutherford unveiled the new ways to allow his office to “talk” to residents at a July news conference, part of his “promise to be transparent and help citizens know about their police agency and how to engage with us as easily as possible.”

The AudioTraffic app broadcasts audio information on major and secondary road incidents and alternate routes from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. The service, still in operation, also offers police alerts on major crimes. The app can be found at audiotrafficapp.com or on the Apple AppStore and Googleplay on Android phones.

The “Calls for Service” website showed police calls that were dispatched in red and completed calls in gray. All listings were delayed for 30 minutes to allow the dispatched officer to get the situation under control. Certain incidents like sexual assaults and child abuse were not shown for privacy reasons, Rutherford said.

The final part of the announcement was a live monthly Sheriff’s Office Internet call-in show that takes telephone calls and tweets from listeners with questions. The next one is scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 19.

The Sheriff’s Office does broadcast some events and news conferences on its website coj.net/departments/sheriffs-office.aspx or its Facebook page.

©2015 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

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