Ten Jacksonville police officers have stopped paying dues and resigned from the Fraternal Order of Police following controversy over how its endorsement for sheriff was handled.
Last week the FOP endorsed Jimmy Holderfield over seven other candidates. The endorsement was never put to a vote and was done by a hand-picked committee of the president.
This lodge of the FOP is one of the largest in the state, with more than 3,000 current and former Jacksonville Sheriff's Office police officers registered. Ten have resigned, though early reports indicated the number was much higher.
There is also talk of bringing in another union to represent officers -- the Police Benevolent Association. According to the association's state headquarters, it has been approached but is just in the infancy stage.
FOP President Steve Amos said the FOP would fight any union takeover.
"The FOP is nationally known as being the finest representative of law enforcement officers in the country," Amos said in a statement. "In particular, we provide our members with representatives in disciplinary matters, in house general counsel, lobbying efforts, contract negotiations as well as fraternal matters. Per Human Resources 10 members have requested to demit out of over 3300 members. It saddens me and the FOP leadership, when even one member leaves the order because we must continue to stand united in these difficult times."
As for the candidates, they were eager to talk last week but not so much Monday.
Holderfield said in a phone interview he was surprised by how quick his endorsement came but not surprised to get it.
Candidate Jay Farhat said he was not aware of the resignations but has never seen the membership so upset.
Candidate Tony Cummings, who was not even interviewed by the FOP panel, issued this statement: "The duplicitous actions taken by this hand-picked body of FOP insiders has caused an unnecessary rift between some of its members. The proper and just remedy to the self-induced crisis is for FOP President Steve Amos to publicly retract the endorsement of Jimmy Holderfield, apologize to the candidates and union members."
Another sheriff's candidate, Ken Jefferson, said he heard from several officers who plan on leaving the union.
"Well, the membership is saying they are fed up with the antics of the FOP policy," he said. "This is a great opportunity in light of the current things the FOP had been scared with. This is a great opportunity for them to show good faith."
The union has been caught up in controversy as well. Its previous president, Nelson Cuba, is still awaiting trial on his involvement in the Allied Veterans of the World gambling crackdown nearly a year and a half ago.