M: I'm here with Sheriff David Shoar of the St. John's County Sheriff's Office [as well
as Joel Bolante, Chief-of-Staff for the Sheriff's Office]. I'm going to ask him
questions about the Civil Rights Movement. It is October 26, 2005. First off,
Sheriff, when and where were you born?
S: I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on October 28th, 1961.
M: What's your educational background?
S: I'm a high school graduate. I have my two year degree. I have an Associate of
Arts degree from St. Johns River Community College. [I] graduated Cum Laude.
[I] graduated with a four year bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from the
University of North Florida, Summa Cum Laude and graduated with a master's
degree from the University of North Florida, Summa Cum Laude.
M: According to your website, you moved to St. Johns County when you were 18?
M: What year is that exactly?
M: Why did you move here?
S: My mother and father had retired here and I came and visited and I just fell in
love with St. Augustine.
M: When you first moved here, where did you live?
S: In the southern part of the county, St. Augustine Shores.
M: What kind of area was that? What were your neighbors like?
S: It was a middle-class [community], a lot of retirees pretty much.
M: Where do you live now?
S: I live on Anastasia Island.
M: What's that area like? How would you describe it?
S: Well, it's a beach community. [It's] a very pleasant area, down by Crescent
M: Have you lived in any other places in St. Augustine?
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 2
M: In your job you have a lot of interaction with various people. What are your
interactions with other races like?
S: What are they like?
M: What context are they usually in?
S: Oh goodness. What context are they usually in, in different races?
S: [My contact with them is] just normal day-to-day living. Everything from, I recently
had trauma surgery and had an African American orthopedic trauma surgeon, to
M: This is more about African Americans, this research project. Over the years,
most African-Americans had jobs simply as menial labor, service oriented jobs.
Since you've moved to St. Augustine, have you seen that change over time?
S: I don't know that I could say that I've seen it change. I think what I've seen
change, Matthew, and I have no empirical evidence to base this statement on,
but I do think that a lot of our African American community is leaving the St.
Johns County area. I think there's been African Americans who have moved
into the professional jobs in St. Johns County, certainly, and certainly there's still
many in the service area jobs, but I think more important than both of those is
that I think we've seen a lot of, especially our younger generation, leave St.
M: Actually, a lot of the people I've interviewed today, I interviewed Pastor Simmons
today too, he mentioned the same exact thing. Why do you think that may be?
S: I've actually asked the question. In fact, our Chief-of-Staff is with us over in
Tallahassee and there was an African American female working the desk at a
hotel. She was working on her master's, she was finishing up her master's from .
B: From Florida A&M.
S: From Florida A&M in counseling. I asked her the question, I said are you coming
back to our community? Her answer to me was, I mean she kind of laughed and
said, "no I'm not." I said why not? Her answer, and Chief, I think you were
standing there, if I remember correctly, it was the fact that it was the job
opportunities. Wasn't that what she said? It was the job market and the job
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 3
opportunities. I mean, she was going to move to Orlando. This was a girl, a bright
young woman that was born and raised here.
M: In the area you live now, how many people are of different races? How integrated
in your neighborhood?
S: [It is] not integrated at all. I live on the island, I would say its ninety-eight percent
M: I'm sorry, I'm just jumping around a little bit here. When did you start your career
in law enforcement?
M: When you started, you started here in St. Johns County?
M: What was the police's attitude towards different races? Was there an attitude?
S: I have been a law enforcement officer for twenty-five years, and I have never
witnessed either overt or covert racism in the classical sense. I would say that
was law enforcement's attitude, and I think that was the question?
S: Members of our community, and this isn't really a race issue, but the members of
our community that are in the lower socio-economic rung, if you will, always
seem to require a disproportionate amount of service from not just law
enforcement, but from the fire department and the paramedics. In that sense, I
think the attitude, whether it's positive or negative, and I can't really tell you if it's
been positive or negative, except to say that there is an awareness, if you will,
that those people in the lower socio-economic area require more service.
M: Those people just happen to be black?
S: In many cases, in St. Johns County, that is exactly correct. Now that does not
translate into a negative attitude by law enforcement. It's an awareness. I don't
know if that's a fair characterization or not.
B: Yeah, I agree.
M: In your time in St. Augustine, this is not so much as a criminal justice officer, but
as a citizen, have you seen or experienced any racial tension or discrimination?
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 4
S: I cannot tell you today, as I sit here, I cannot specifically give you an example. I
am certain that at some point in my last twenty-five years of living here, I've seen
racial tension in some venue. I can't give you a specific area or a specific event,
but I certainly have. Discrimination, I'm sure I've seen it at some point, but I can't
be specific and say that on such and such a date, this occurred. Certainly there
has been some. I'm certain I've seen [some]. It may have been something as
simple as noticing a store security officer paying attention more to an African
American customer who's shopping, because that store security officer has
profiled African Americans as being more prone to shoplifting. It may be
something as innocuous as that, which is not innocuous actually. Its actually far
from innocuous, but specifically, no.
M: You get kind of a sense that you've seen it at some time?
S: I got a sense that St. Johns County is a microcosm of the rest of the country,
where there is class awareness and there are class differences, which translates
to race differences. Is that a fair answer?
M: Yes, it seems like a fair answer. We're focusing on West Augustine right now.
There seems to be a lot of money and effort and talk going into improving West
Augustine, with the Weed and Seed program and the Community
Redevelopment Area, especially the Weed and Seed program, which would be
more of a law enforcement aspect. What does the St. Johns County and the St.
Augustine Police Department do to improve that?
S: Well, I've got some very mixed feelings about the role of government, especially
law enforcement, in making communities healthy. I believe a community's health
is determined by that community. The whole notion that law enforcement goes in
and weeds out problems and seeds it with something better, or government does
that, to me is a little bit frightening. I don't know that the community, the African
American community, really wants us to go in there and "weed out" problems.
What we can do is partner with that community to come up with solutions. Part of
that may be the development of programs, part of that may be the establishment
of a drug abuse treatment center. There's a lot of things. But make no mistake
about it, that law enforcement's efficacy, in terms of assisting a community
achieve a level of health, if you will, that it wants to achieve is limited.
M: What you're saying is that they may be focusing on the wrong things? Or they're
making you focus on the wrong things?
S: No, neither one of those statements are accurate. The premise is that the West
Augustine area is a blighted area. I mean, if you drive through it, that becomes
readily apparent. What I am suggesting, is that in order to take a community like
that and help it achieve its level of health that it wants to, you need a holistic
approach. Too many times we rely on law enforcement, we rely on the U. S.
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 5
Army, we rely on different entities of government to fix issues or to fix problems
that really require a holistic approach, not the least of which is the people that live
in those communities. Fair enough?
M: Yeah, that's fine. You mentioned the partnerships, St. Johns County is trying to
enter into partnerships with the local communities. You mentioned drug treatment
centers and some other things. Can you give me any specifics?
S: Well, when Weed and Seed first came up, my initial response, Matthew, was,
okay, you want us to weed out problems. That can be a dangerous notion. It's
okay to weed out problems, but is there an infrastructure in place to deal with
those problems? For instance, teen pregnancy. For instance, sexually
transmitted diseases. For instance, drug addiction and alcoholism. For instance,
mental illness. Are there those social agencies in place in St. Johns County to
deliver a service to ameliorate those problems? I would say to you, we are
lacking in that area. St. Johns County is lacking in that area. I may get beat up for
saying that, but I'm gonna call it like I see it, and that's the way I see it. The
answer can't be as simple as send the cops in and arrest every black male
between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five that's hanging out on the street
corner. That is certainly not the solution. That is certainly not what that
community wants. What that community wants is a support mechanism and an
infrastructure, a social infrastructure that can help them deal with those issues.
That's a pretty good answer.
M: In the Civil Rights Movement of 1964, its sad to say the police played an active
role in enforcing segregation and keeping it around. When you started working
here, did you notice any of those attitudes still lingering?
S: No, not at all. I did not. Probably the bigger challenge when I came on, Matthew,
was not with the races, it was with females. When I came on in 1980, and Chief,
to a certain extent this applies to you, women hadn't quite made it into our
profession yet. Excuse me, they had, but not locally. That presented some real
challenges for us as a profession. I am happy to report twenty-five years later, a
quarter of century later, we have made it light-years [better]. They have not only
made it into the profession, they've become vital, vital members of our
profession. Did I see remnants of segregation when I started in 1980, 1981?
No. Did we have officers on the department back then that grew up in an
environment where there was the Jim Crow laws? Certainly. Did I hear anything
translated in the workplace about that? No.
M: That kind of segways into my other question. For some reason or another, there
currently are no African Americans working in the St. Augustine Police
Department, and talking to Pastor Simmons today, he said there were very few
working in the Sheriff's office. Why is that? Is lack of qualified applicants?
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 6
S: Absolutely. Our biggest challenge, and we talked about it earlier about people
leaving, we just hired fifteen deputy sheriffs, one Filipino American, one Hispanic
American, two females. We have an absolute absence of, and I'm not going to
even use the term qualified, because sometimes that's a code word for some
people that qualified means [racism]. We don't have African Americans putting
applications in. Forget about qualified or unqualified. I struggle with this, I came
from the city police department, I don't know if you knew that.
S: This was a constant struggle for us. I'll say this on tape, and I've been a law
enforcement officer for twenty-five years, and sometimes I get asked the
question, not in this context, but I've been asked this question by members of the
media or by people in general, how many African Americans do you have? The
way that question is asked, there's almost an implication on occasion that
because there is a small number, it presents a prima facie [a Latin expression
meaning "at first sight"] case for a racist or a discriminatory department. I take
great offense to that. What I tell people is we can't even get African Americans in
the front door to submit an application, for whatever reason. We've done very
well with women, we've done very well with other races. African American men
and women in St. Johns County have been difficult to recruit. Typically what
happens when we do recruit, they stay for a year or two and then go seek
employment at a bigger agency that pays them more money.
B: That is our primary problem with African Americans.
S: That is our primary problem.
B: Over the years, we have recruited and we have hired African Americans, but they
don't stay very long. They go to Jacksonville or another [city].
S: Or [they go to] a state agency or a federal agency. It is a difficult, difficult
M: Out of curiosity, do you find that problem with non-African Americans? Do they
tend to stay around?
S: I guess the answer to that would be, it doesn't seem to be a problem in the other
races. Recruitment [is the problem] in the African American community. One of
the things I did as police chief was I partnered with the churches, the African
American churches. They had no better luck than I did. In fact, we had better
luck. It's just a challenge.
B: You know, your question is a good question. Based on just my experience, and
I've been here twenty-two years in this agency, and from what I observe, they
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 7
leave because they have more opportunity to leave than a Caucasian. Many
other agencies that pay more, they're doing the same thing we are. They're trying
to recruit African Americans and when they find them, they take them. They take
them, unfortunately, from us.
M: Also unfortunately, within the last year or two, there's been one or two charges of
police brutality against police in the area. I know you were at a meeting about a
year ago I guess, with the man who was tasered and died. What is the police
response to charges like this?
S: To charges of racism?
M: To charges of racism or police brutality, I guess most of them probably stemming
S: I believe that there are few professions that are as well policed as policing. I
believe that we monitor, we investigate charges of either brutality, excessive
force, or racism and that we take action when action is indicated.
M: Like I said, you were at that meeting about a year ago before you became
M: What was the attitude of the participants in that meeting? What did the people
who came to the meeting expect or want?
S: You know, I don't really know what the expectation was. I think it really was a
recruitment. They were trying to start a chapter of the NAACP. The bottom line
is you have an African American male who died during contact with law
enforcement. I don't' know what the people at that meeting were seeking other
than to vent some frustration. I think there was frustration at that meeting if I
remember it correctly. I think many of the people who attended that meeting
wanted to have more of a voice, if you will, and maybe a better relationship with
M: Talking to Pastor Simmons today, he mentioned that after that event, I think it
was Sheriff Perry then, and black leaders got together and decided to have more
active partnership and dialogue between each other. Has this dialogue been
maintained over the last few years?
S: I think its begun, I think its been maintained. I had lunch with a black pastor
today, I think it has. I spent my lunch today working on a scholarship fund for the
first individual that was killed in Vietnam, who happened to be an African
American from St. Johns County. I think it has begun. I place a premium,
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 8
personally, on treating everybody with dignity and respect, regardless of race,
color, creed, sexual orientation, or anything like that. I think its come a long
M: In the 1960s, the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizen's Council were very active
in this area. They seem to have, at least died back or become much less vocal
since then. Do you know of any such organizations that still exist in the county?
S: No. Do you?
M: Actually, Pastor Simmons said he had a pretty reliable source that there is still a
Ku Klux Klan in the northwestern part of the county, which surprised me.
S: I don't know. We've actually had a Klan demonstration here, but they were all
out-of-towners that came in back in the early 1990s. About once every five years
seven or eight of these yahoos will come in from somewhere else in the state.
I've never heard of a KKK group in St. Johns County.
B: You mean active groups.
S: Active groups, no.
M: [We're] changing tracks a little bit. Obviously one of the big charges prior to the
time frame of my investigation is that the city government wasn't allowing blacks
into city government, to work there.
S: When was that occurring, you said?
M: Prior to 1985.
S: They were letting African Americans in city government to work there prior to
M: The charge was, according to Dr. [David] Colburn whose book I'm basing most of
this off of, there was very little representation of blacks, not just in elected
positions, but in the city government to begin with. My question is, currently do
you see more African Americans getting professional jobs in the government, do
they seem them becoming more active in government?
S: I get the sense that there is. I do. I get the sense that there is. I know that there's
an African American city commissioner.
M: Yes, Errol Jones.
S: One of the difficulties is county-wide representation on the county commission. I
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 9
happen to think, it is my opinion, that St. Johns County, and this may be in direct
contradiction to others, I think St. Johns County is very enlightened. I think St.
Johns County, compared to many communities, is very enlightened, and that we
promote and we hire and we elect based on attributes other than race, which is a
good thing to say. Joel, I don't want to bring you up, you're sitting here, but the
fact as our number two person here in the Sheriff's Office is a minority. I don't
mean to hold that up, and he got where he got based on the right reasons, which
are qualifications and what have you. I think St. Johns County is a very
enlightened, in many respects, a very enlightened community. I've gotten a little
bit concerned with our district, county wide elections, as opposed to single
district. It takes a tremendous amount of resources to run a county-wide
campaign, and I think that places a good portion of our African American
community at a disadvantage. I personally would like to see single-member
districts, for a lot of different reasons, one of which it would equal the playing field
for minorities getting elected to county government.
M: Once again, switching tracks a little bit, you have children and they go to school
here in the county?
M: The St. Johns County School system was integrated in 1970. Right now there's a
fairly big discrepancy in quality of schools between Nease High School, which is
almost completely white, and St. Augustine High School, which is a much more
mixed school. Is it your impression that the school system is equally fair to
everyone and this is just due to housing patterns and economics?
S: I think our school system, if there's any discrepancies at all, its remnants of
where the schools were built, when they were built, and where people live. I have
a friend who wanted to donate a significant amount of money to Nease High
School to build a field house for the baseball team and couldn't unless he could
do it for all the schools. That was School Board rule. They've certainly done
everything organizationally to ensure fairness. We know separate is not equal,
we know that that's a flawed theory and it shouldn't have taken us the Supreme
Court to tell us that, though they're the ones that initially told us that separate but
equal was a valid theory. They were eventually were the ones that told us it was
a flawed theory. We know separate is not equal. Our schools are integrated and
if ones in better shape than the other, its by virtue of the population shifts. I
mean, new schools are being built in the northwest, now the next question is
what's the race of the people who live in the northwest? I don't know.
M: Who do you see as leaders of the black community?
S: In St. Johns County?
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 10
M: In St. Johns County and St. Augustine?
M: If you would like to give me names.
S: Clyde and Haddie Jenkins, Mr. And Mrs. Otis Mason, there are several. Those
are two good ones.
M: It's kind of false to call a big group of people a community, because everyone
has they're own goals and ambitions, but what do you see the black community
trying to do in St. Augustine? Do you see them focused towards any particular
S: I don't know. It would almost be disingenuous to try and answer that. I do know
that for the lower socio-economic classes, which are disproportionally African
American in St. Johns County, it is becoming increasingly difficult to live here
because of cost of living, cost of real estate, cost of doing business. I can't sit
here and tell you as a community, the African American community is just trying
to survive and live here. I can tell you that the lower socio-economic classes in
St. Johns County have a unique set of challenges by virtue of the fact that its
becoming very expensive to live in St. Johns County.
M: Just a few more questions. Have you noticed or known of the city government or
city organizations doing anything to encourage diversity or integration in the last
S: Oh, absolutely. Its kind of like the elephant in the living room, I can't give you
examples. [Have we been encouraging] diversity in the workplace?
M: Diversity in the workplace, diversity among interactions between people.
S: I don't know what government's specifically doing other than we constantly try to
recruit minorities into the work force.
M: What do you see for this area in the future? What do you see St. Augustine and
St. Johns County becoming in the future?
S: In terms of [what]?
M: Race, socio-economic status, even just what do you see it looking like in the
S: I see St. Johns County as continuing to become a more and more affluent
community. I'm not sure what race that will attract or not attract. The fact is that
St. Johns County is a wealthy county. The net worth of people that live here, the
SACR-2: Shoar and Bolante, page 11
median income of the people who live here is high. I see that as continuing to
increase. I see property values continuing to increase, and I believe that there
will be a set of unintended consequences that comes with that. [I'm] not sure
exactly what those are. One of them might be that my fifteen year old daughter
and twelve year old son will not be able to afford to live here. But that's what I
see as the challenges in St. Johns County.
M: My final question: Is St. Augustine still a segregated town?
S: That's a difficult question. I mean, lets face it, the housing patterns that we have
in St. Johns County are historical artifacts. If I was to tell you that we have full
integration of our neighborhoods, that would certainly be misleading. When you
say segregated, there are different forms of segregation. One is forced. One is
unforced. One is an unintended consequence. I would say that we in some ways
are still segregated by virtue of history. I mean, West Augustine is a historically
black neighborhood. Lincolnville was and now we gentrification occurring in
Lincolnville. That's changing. Do we have institutionalized segregation? No. Do
we have voluntary segregation? Yes. Overall, the answer would be no. Only
because the word segregation conjures up a quasi-official segregation, we don't
M: Thank you very much Sheriff Shoar.
[End of Interview.]