PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Following the social unrest from the murder of George Floyd, elected leaders in Palm Beach County, police chiefs, and community activists were called to action. After a series of community forums spearheaded by the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission along with Community Partners of South Florida, local communities have drafted action plans to implement the change they wish to see.
“It doesn’t feel safe anymore, even just to be, to even be in my skin,” said Ketly Blaise Williams, a Boynton Beach activist.
For decades, Williams has stood up for what she believes in, involved in her community. Even before the death of George Floyd, there's been a shift in what she desires to change.
“Things where people would maybe think or feel a certain way about different people who don’t look like them or different customs or cultures, they would have at least a little bit of decorum or sensibility to not speak that out loud,” said Williams.
“Do you feel like, for most people, the gloves have come off and people are open about who they are, what they think, regardless of how it’s going to make others feel?” asked WPTV’s Michelle Quesada.
“Completely, and I find that so, so, so, so sad and so emotionally exhausting,” answered Williams.
She was looking for an opportunity to speak her truth and learned the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission or CJC, was bringing together the community with police.
“Questions about race were just naturally going to come up,” said Barbara Cheives, a CJC member. “One of the things that I think came up a lot was accountability of law enforcement.”
Nine forums were held in several parts of the county.
“Some of the focus policies quite naturally was the use of force, and the chokehold,” said Delray Beach Police Chief Javaro Sims.
The big question, how does that trickle down to police training?
“I think we are moving more toward the de-escalation style of policing alternative, slowing situations down prior to arrival,” Sims said.
Sims said since 2019, the department has revised more than 100 policies. During the process, people wanted to know what their local departments were doing.
“As it turns out, Palm Beach County wasn’t as bad as perhaps most people were thinking,” said Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission Executive Director Regenia Herring.
Herring found 80% of local police departments were making changes.
After weeks of virtual meetings, more than 150 people from southern to northern Palm Beach County, out west to Wellington, Loxahatchee, and the Glades broke out into groups and voted on action plans for their communities.
“In Lake Worth, they want to pair mental health services with law enforcement, so that the right level of engagement is used when police are called,” said Jaime-Lee Bradshaw, chief strategy officer of Community Partners of South Florida.
Back in Boynton Beach, Williams is involved in planning a panel discussion targeting youth.
“It’s not even just the police, but it’s the people who call the police who find that people of color for whatever reason just doing normal everyday things somehow that has become threatening in this country,” she said.
The future of her 10-year-old grandson is at the center of her worries.
“He is like one of the most brilliant kids; he’s writing his own songs, but in the back of my mind, I’m saying who is going to see him one day and say, ‘I don’t know about that kid, he’s a little scary,’” said Williams.
Putting these plans to action, she knows, is not going to change everything. Williams feels it's up to everyone to learn to police themselves.
“I want people to see that I’m a black woman, because I am," Williams said, "but I don’t want you to treat me differently because of it. That’s my truth.”
To learn more on how to create your own action plan, click here and hover over "Community Solutions" and then click on "Dialogue to Change."
Also, to remain transparent, several police departments have started to post department policies online.
Click on the links below to view your local Palm Beach County law enforcement department’s page: