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Lake City Police Chief Argatha Gilmore Makes It Clear, She Answers to Nobody in Lake City

Mother and community activist Bea Faithful Coker addresses the City Council and Chief Gilmore. Columbia County Observer photos and graphic
Mother and community activist Bea Faithful Coker addresses the City Council and Chief Gilmore. Columbia County Observer photos and graphic

LAKE CITY, COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – After over 11 years on the job, Lake City Police Chief Argatha-Rigby Gilmore cannot say that Lake City is safer than when she began. While the LCPD has gotten various accreditations on her watch, many of Lake City’s residents are afraid to call the police.

On Monday evening, the Lake City, City Council met for a workshop. As the workshop got underway, it became clear that nobody tells the Chief what to do. Not her direct supervisor, City Manager Joe Helfenberger, or the City Manager’s direct supervisor, the City Council.

Police Chief Holds the Wrong Workshop
Nobody, Including the City Council, Tells Her What To Do

Chief Gilmore Didn’t Want to Follow the City’s Rules: so she didn’t
The Workshop
The Jake Hill Video
Shalea Jernigan to Chief Gilmore:  "You're not going to ruin him."
Epilogue: Bea Faithful Coker Speaks


On June 15, 2009, Wendell Johnson was hired as Lake City’s city manager.

Three months later, on September 22, 2009, retired Tallahassee PD Captain Argatha-Rigby Gilmore was hired as Lake City’s police chief.

Many thought Mr. Johnson hand-picked Ms. Gilmore for the job.

In 2009, areas of Lake City were known for blight, crime, and drug dealing. Residents in some communities would not call the police. Little has changed.

Police Chief Holds the Wrong Workshop
Nobody, Including the City Council, Tells Her What To Do

While the February 1, 2021 City Council meeting was unruly and contentious, what became clear after the first half-hour of the meeting was that Lake City residents were looking for police oversight by a civilian complaint review board, not an advisory council. (See: Lake City Residents Looking for Police Oversight)

Chief Gilmore made it clear that she did not want a civilian complaint review board. She did want a “Police Advisory Council.”

She told the Council, “This was one of my initiatives, so I'm asking this Council to allow me to follow through with my initiative as a police advisory Council. The initiative that I have and that I want to implement. Not that it is mandated by this Council. It is one of my initiatives that has been there, ever since I have been here.”

Police Chief Argatha Gilmore
Police Chief Gilmore during the projection of one of the videos.

In October 2009, Mayor Witt, Councilman Hill, and Councilman Jefferson were on the City Council. Chief Gilmore, as the Council's Sergeant at Arms, attends all City Council meetings.

None of them mentioned anything about recalling the Chief’s initiative for a "Police Advisory Council."

An hour into the February 1, 2021, Council meeting, there were still questions about Mr. Jefferson's earlier motion regarding the workshop and the civilian complaint review board.

Mr. Jefferson explained the intent of his earlier motion. He said, “My intent, as I foresaid, was that the review board and the workshop; I think that the workshop is where we can get the answers and the direction and formulate what we are going to do. That's the importance of the workshop, and that's what my motion was addressing."

Councilman Greene was still confused. He asked Mr. Jefferson for clarification: "The point of the workshop is to determine the roles and responsibilities and how a citizens' review board or advisory board is going to address the concerns of the citizens that have shown up tonight, as well as the Chief's initiative. Is that the point of the workshop?"

Mr. Jefferson answered, “That’s the point of the workshop. That's what I had in mind.”

Then, the City Council voted to approve the content of the workshop. The City Clerk called the roll. The vote was 4 to 1 in favor, with Mayor Witt voting no.

Chief Gilmore had her marching orders. She had over two months to prepare to follow the directive of the City Council.

Chief Gilmore Didn’t Want to Follow the City’s Rules: so she didn’t

While Chief Gilmore views the projection screen, an assistant hands out information to Councilmember Sampson. There was nothing for the media.

On March 1, 2021, the City Council adopted an ordinance in which Koberlein Law and his staff re-wrote the City's Rules of Procedure. [There will be more on this mess at a later date].

The City ordinance states that all information (reports etc., or other matters) which will be provided to the City Council shall [must] be delivered to the city clerk.

According to emails between the Police Chief, the City Clerk, and the City Manager, Chief Gilmore completely ignored the purpose of the workshop and just made one up, calling the workshop: “LCPD: Policies, Practices & Policing in the 21st Century Serving the Citizens of Lake City Florida.”

Chief Gilmore, who said the workshop was for the City Council, spent a lot of time with her back toward them.

City Manager Helfenberger, following the City Rules, asked the Chief for any supporting documentation for her presentation, telling her that it needed to be provided to the City Clerk.

Chief Gilmore wrote back to the City Manager: “There are no supporting documents.”

During Monday's workshop, the Chief handed out reams of information not made available to the Council, the City management, or anybody else before the meeting.

City rules spelled out what was needed for the workshop to move forward. The City Council needed to "waive by unanimous consent" the lack of the supporting documentation that the City Manager requested.

City Manager Helfenberger is Chief Gilmore's boss.

In the civilized world, the Council would have a parliamentarian, or someone assigned to that task, to make sure the rules were being followed.

Neither the City Charter nor Koberlein's City Rules define what or who is the parliamentarian.

The Workshop

As the workshop got underway and it was discovered that its nature and purpose would be ignored, about 25 members of Lake City’s North Lake City community, those most affected by the crime, drugs, and shootings, got up and left.

About 15 minutes after the meeting began, County Commissioners Witt and Hollingsworth head to the exits, leaving few members in the audience, other than the Chief's church members, who are in the blue shirts.

Chief Gilmore, also a preacher, was left preaching her hand-picked information in a made-up workshop to her church members – really.

While she claimed the workshop was for the City Council, she spent a good portion of her time with her back towards the Council speaking to her fellow church members.

Glitches in the Zoom screen made the Chief’s 12th-hour slide presentation static, and for over half the meeting, the slides did not change, and the Chief's videos mostly did not play, although there was sound.

The Jake Hill Video

Councilman Jake Hill on the big screen and Youtube, courtesy of Police Chief Gilmore.

Chief Gilmore ran a video of veteran City Councilman Jake Hill getting pulled over by the police. He had no license plate on his pickup truck, and the piece of paper it was written on could not be read through the dark tint in the cab’s back window.

The Chief said that the officers didn’t know that Mr. Hill was a City Councilman.

She explained that after the stop, she made sure all the LCPD officers knew what Mr. Hill looked like, adding that she included the other members of the Council in her picture portfolio.

While Mr. Hill may have been insulted that he wasn’t recognized, this was not his first time; it shouldn’t have made a difference, but apparently, this time, it did.

Mr. Hill never mentioned who he was and did not ask for any special treatment. He asked for a ticket and that the police let him go on his way.

Mr. Hill's attitude was a textbook moment about everything anybody should not do when pulled over by the police.

If one were black while driving, Mr. Hill’s composure was dangerous to his longevity.

Considering the state of race relations everywhere, Mr. Hill is lucky he didn’t get shot or arrested.

This leaves one wondering if the police really didn't know who Mr. Hill was.

However, Chief Gilmore, who, over the years, has been at odds with Mr. Hill, didn’t show the video as a ‘what not to do when being pulled over video,’ but as a way to publicly humiliate Councilman Hill.

Chief Gilmore allowed the video to play unredacted, broadcasting Mr. Hill giving his name, address, and last four of his social security number to the police.

Besides being against the law, Chief Gilmore has now subjected Mr. Hill to the risk of significant identity theft.

While unlimited videos were available to Chief Gilmore, she continued to show videos of people in the community who had criticized her.

Shalea Jernigan to Chief Gilmore:  "You're not going to ruin him."

On February 1, 2021, Shalea Jernigan spoke directly to Chief Gilmore about the way she thought her son was mistreated by the LCPD.

Next, under the Chief's gun was Lake City resident Shalea Jernigan, a mother who previously came to the microphone on February 1, 2021, to defend her 19-year-old son, who the LCPD had arrested in October.

She told the Chief and the City Council that she was afraid the arrest had ruined her 19-year-old son's life.

Ms. Jernigan’s facts may not have been 100% accurate, but her heartfelt pain was real and palpable as she addressed the Chief.

Ms. Jernigan said, “My son is a graduate of CHS class of 2019; no criminal record; very respectful; work every day. He was working at North Florida Pediatric until your officers arrested him and then posted him on Facebook like he was a criminal - like he had possession of guns and marijuana, and he only have a charge of obstruction of justice. You arrested him, you scandalized his name, you ruined his character… He goes to work every day 8 to 5. He's in school at Florida Gateway College… We're gonna fight. You're not gonna ruin him because he has a future. He'll be 20 February 18.”

Finally, she looked at Chief Gilmore and said, "You are not going to ruin him. No ma'am, you're not going to ruin him."

Ms. Jernigan explained that she asked for a video of the incident and was told there was no video available. On April 14, 2021, Ms. Jernigan had still not received the video from the LCPD.

This past Monday night, Chief Gilmore ignored the pain of Ms. Jernigan. She projected at the meeting and over Youtube a video of her son sitting in handcuffs.

He has been convicted of nothing.

As of yesterday, Ms. Jernigan has still not received the police video(s) of her son.

Epilogue: Bea Faithful Coker Speaks

After sitting the whole length of the meeting, Bea Faithful Coker came to the microphone. She was the last speaker.

Ms. Coker told the City Council: "Children need to be safe, and that's the bottom line. That's what I am not hearing. We need an environment where children are free just to be children. We've lost sight of that…"

“We’ve got to do something differently. I’m begging you to do something differently.”

Comments (to add a comment go here)

On April 16, 2021, former LC Police Capt. Rudolph Davis, wrote:

If the police chief stands for what's right as a police chief, she would love having a Citizens Review Board, but it appears that her intentions are Not right.

She cannot pick the members for the Citizens Review Board because at some point they may have to review her handling of a situation.

The church folks who are followers of her would be better off following Jim Jones.

Her showing of the videos of people with whom she has a grudge was very unprofessional.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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