Gainesville commissioners Cynthia Chestnut, Desmon Duncan-Walker and Reina Saco convened the first Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday.
To start the meeting, Chestnut nominated Duncan-Walker as the chair and herself as vice chair. The vote passed 2-1 with Saco in dissent. The committee also decided to meet once a month on Mondays at 1 p.m.
At Saco’s request, the committee decided to add a general public comment spot concerning public safety at the start of each meeting.
The city commission formed the new committee on Jan. 5, and the three commissioners brought up topics to address in future meetings.
“I’m very, very excited for us to [bring this committee back],” Duncan-Walker said. “I’m very excited to serve with two commissioners who have proven themselves dedicated to public safety.”
Saco discussed gun violence, lighting across the city, the co-responders program, safe haven boxes and enforcement strategies for safety laws. Chestnut added the open container ordinance, youth services, summer programming and crosswalk improvements.
However, the committee decided to focus on Gainesville Police Department’s K-9 team for its next meeting to be held on March 27. Duncan-Walker said the topic will likely consume the entire meeting.
The K-9 team returned to active duty on Feb. 17 after time off for continued education. Community discussion around the K-9 team has escalated since an incident in July 2022 when Terrell Bradley lost his right eye following a confrontation with a GPD dog.
The Police Advisory Committee will also discuss the GPD K-9 team at its meeting in March.
Saco said the city may need to pause discussion on the K-9 team after Bradley filed a lawsuit against the city, but City Attorney Daniel Nee said the commissioners should be able to proceed in a defensible manner.
Chestnut added that legal issues can last months or years—time the city doesn’t have to figure out the next steps for the K-9 team.
Duncan-Walker, Saco and Chestnut will detail recommendations for the entire commission and bring those recommendations at a future meeting.
The Public Safety Committee will discuss summer programs and services for youth at its April meeting and gun violence at its May meeting.