TAMPA, Fla. - Responding to calls for more police accountability that have been the source of protests in the streets this summer, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced some proposed “enhancements” to the city’s Citizen’s Review Board (CRB) on Thursday, an agency that has been accused by critics of being toothless since its creation in 2015. They include:
What You Need To Know
- Interview panel will consist of active, retired officers and CRB members
- CRB will issue a public feedback survey every 3 years
- Proposals have to be approved by City Council
- More Hillsborough County headlines
Allowing the CRB to review cases after they’re closed, but before they go through the disciplinary process – currently the CRB only has the ability to review cases after they’ve gone through both the entire investigative and disciplinary process.
The TPD has been accused of not having enough police officers of color in their department. There will now be a newly formed TPD interview panel, consisting of active and retired TPD officers along with CRB members.
CRB members will also join a panel of active and retired TPD officers on a new panel to review the hiring process.
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The CRB will review monthly notifications from the complaint tracking systems to see a list of new complaints and the status of pending investigations. The CRB coordinator and the CRB chair should also review complaints on a weekly basis thru a separate email chain.
The CRB will issue out a public feedback survey every three years regarding the police department’s policies and procedures.
Add two new members to the CRB: A member from the NAACP, and a criminology professor from either USF or the University of Tampa. However, anyone who has been arrested by the TPD or is currently suing the department will not be eligible to serve. “It’s important that this board remain unbiased to prevent personal prejudice from interfering with policy reviews,” the mayor said at a press conference aired on the city’s Facebook page.
There will be a new CRB website, and the board meetings will be held throughout the city.
The proposals need to be approved by the Tampa City Council.
Councilman Orlando Gudes, a former Tampa Police officer who made the motion last month for the city to consider restructuring the Citizen’s Review Board to give it more power, said he’s generally supportive of the Castor’s proposals.
“Times have changed. Policing has changed, and we have to make sure that we’re advocating for the people,” he said.
However Gudes, who is recovering from COVID-19, said he was surprised to hear from the city council attorney that the mayor was holding a press conference to announce her proposed changes. He believed she should have addressed the council first, and says he looks forward when the council meets up next to discuss the proposed changes.
Other councilmembers were also generally supportive.
“I appreciate the mayor opening the door to the discussion and look forward to hearing from the other council members and what they think, along with any other ideas they may propose,” said Council Chair Guido Maniscalso in a text “This is the first step of many in implementing new, improved, and legitimate policy reforms and creating better transparency.”
“This is going to add another layer of transparency,” said Councilman Joe Citro, who added that he hopes Hillsborough NAACP President Yvette Lewis is selected to serve on the CRB.
“The Mayor has taken a good first step in addressing this important issue that was created in a flawed and unnecessarily divisive process five years ago,” wrote Councilman Bill Carlson in a text. “I look forward to hearing community feedback and making changes accordingly with my colleagues on City Council.”
The CRB was created by former Mayor Bob Buckhorn in the aftermath of the “Biking While Black,” report published by the Tampa Bay Times in 2015 that reported that black bicyclists in Tampa were disproportionately cited for citations. It ultimately led to the U.S. Dept. of Justice reviewing the policy.
The group that pushed for the CRB in 2015, Tampa for Justice, released a statement that called Castor’s announcement a “handful of modest improvements while neglecting to address several key demands from the community.”
“As long as the mayor, a former police chief, controls who is appointed, the Citizen Review Board will continue to be a sham and not function as intended: to provide credible and independent overview to the Tampa Police Department,” said Kelly Benjamin, the founding member of Tampa Bay Justice.
The mayor’s announcement came on a day when the city council was scheduled to discuss several issues regarding the TPD, including hearing a report from the administration on the privacy rules related to the department’s social media policies.
That became an issue after the department included a woman’s personal information on its YouTube page. That happened after she distributed a video that showed a gun being pointed at her by an officer. The officer was investigating a report that the car she was driving in had been stolen, and Police Chief Brian Dugan said he was following proper procedures.
The public meeting was cancelled due to the increase of COVID-19 infections in the city, and it appears that upcoming council meetings will return to being virtual.