Special JSO team dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ community has disappeared, without notice

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A special team dedicated to helping the LGBTQ+ community from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has disappeared without any notice.


Communication was silent because the team’s email had been disabled.

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Action News Jax Annette Gutierrez began asking questions to JSO about two weeks ago. Every time questions were raised for clarification about why the program dissolved, their responses got longer.

“I feel like we’re not being heard,” Paige Mahogany Parks, Founder of Transgender Awareness Project in Jacksonville said.

Parks has been trying to reach JSO’s special LGBTQ+ team since 2019 and hasn’t gotten a response.

“I want JSO to do their job,” she said.

JSO created the team in 2018 after three trans women were murdered. The “LGBTQ Liaison Team” was made up of volunteers including Lt. Sharon Scott, who identifies as lesbian.

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“It about building trust and building respect,” Lt. Scott said back in 2018.

In October 2018, Action News Jax went to JSO to show you how it was supposed to work. The liaison team had members across the agency, from corrections to patrol to administration, all helping develop training for officers.

“If I get email that says the dispatcher was very short with me, we can address it,” Lt. Scott said back in 2018.

But the volunteer team is no more – JSO says almost nobody was asking for help.

So, Action News Jax asked to see their email data. They listed nearly 17-hundred messages in the last three years but say 98-percent were spam. In fact, they say last year they only got four citizen requests.

But Parks says she doesn’t buy that, saying she herself sent more emails than that.

“They created the liaison team just to keep us quiet,” Parks said.

READ: Demonstrators march across Acosta Bridge to support LGBTQ+ rights, protest Freedom Summer

But as her emails went unheard, the volunteers who made up the team were all leaving. JSO says by the time Sheriff T.K. Waters took office, the team was “essentially non-operational”.

JSO said in part, “Over time, the volunteer base diminished until there were no members remaining and/or available. As a result, the email address associated with the group was also disabled in December of 2023.”

They say they didn’t tell the public, because the team was never disbanded – it just fizzled out.

Parks says this isn’t enough, and it has LGBTQ people afraid to trust JSO.

“Everyone in the community deserves to feel safe,” Parks said.

Human rights organizations like American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says Floridians are facing increased harassment due to discriminatory political campaigns. They encourage JSO to reactivate the team, saying in part, “It is crucial that the LGBTQ+ community has a platform to express their concerns.”

RELATED: Florida ranks 50th of 51 for LGBTQ+ safety according to new report

JSO said while the team no longer exists, they continue to serve all Jacksonville citizens, regardless of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Mayor Donna Deegan signed a proclamation on June 28th recognizing pride month and created an advisory board for the LGBTIQ community.

In an emailed statement, the city’s spokesperson said, “We welcome participation in the new Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board from stakeholders across Jacksonville, and we look forward to their recommendations on how to best engage the LGBTQ community.”

Full statement from American Civil Liberties Union of Florida:

We all deserve to be safe, regardless of where we live, how we look, or who we are. Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ Floridians are facing increased harassment and violence due to a state-sponsored campaign of discrimination and dehumanizing rhetoric.

The JSO’s LGBTQ+ liaison was established in 2018 after Jacksonville made national headlines for the tragic murders of three Black transgender women in the first six months of that year. It is crucial that the LGBTQ+ community has a platform to express their concerns and share experiences with law enforcement. This need is even more urgent for transgender, Black, and Brown members of the LGBTQ+ community. We strongly urge the JSO to reactivate this liaison team. In the interim, we can enhance public safety by focusing on prevention and by strengthening our communities through investments in proven solutions. These include affordable housing, jobs, education, health care, and mental health and substance use services.

We invite you to review our Call for Equitable Treatment to explore our incarceration findings and plea to county jails to increase the safety of LGBTQ+ individuals in custody.

—  American Civil Liberties Union of Florida

Full chain of emails between Action News Jax Annette Gutierrez and JSO:

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