TAMPA, Fla. - Concerns of racial profiling following the vague description of a suspect wanted for a string of murders in Seminole Heights drove dozens of people to meet with Tampa police on Thursday.
The meeting, hosted by the Tampa NAACP, also brought out concerns that anyone can be a suspect.
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan took on these issues one by one.
“Look, the only way we’re going to get over this is to have this type of dialogue, right?” he said.
The chief was asked about his philosophy on policing and fixing the relationship with the black community in Seminole Heights.
“I don’t have a lot of confidence in this particular group of officers,” said resident Connie Burton. "It looks like a military arsenal in our community. People are frightened they might become the suspect in the haste to solve these problems."
There are more officers in the neighborhood that are stopping more people because a murder suspect is on the loose, not because of racial profiling, Dugan said.
The suspect is described as a thin black male between 6 feet and 6 feet, 2 inches tall.
NAACP members said they've received reports of about 300 people being arrested for warrant violations or parole violations since the murders began in October.
Between October and November, only 150 people have been arrested, according to Tampa police. That’s an increase from the reported 56 arrests during the same stretch of months in 2016 and 126 arrests in 2015.
Resident Jarvis El-Amin said he’s never trusts police officers but says after Thursday’s meeting he’s a little more trusting of Chief Dugan.
“I appreciate that he engaged me, and then we had an emotional, honest conversation. We’ve got to give him an opportunity to see if he’s going to have a different philosophy of policing in the black community.” El-Amin said.
“It’s important we take the time to talk to people,” Dugan said. “We can always do better. I was here to talk to them and get their feedback. I know that we have work to do.”
Neighbors say rebuilding the trust between police and their community will take time.
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