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Tampa community groups call for increased powers for citizen review board

One such power is giving the board the ability to 'issue and enforce' subpoenas for investigations.
Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

TAMPA, Fla. — Leaders in Tampa are calling for changes to be made to the city's citizen review board. 

For several months, a coalition of community groups have been working with Mayor Jane Castor and her administration to redesign the board, calls for which began to culminate following protests in the Tampa Bay and across the country after George Floyd's death. 

On Thursday, leaders will bring their proposal for changes to the review board to a city council workshop set for 9 a.m.  

You can read the list of proposed changes below:

  1. The CRB needs to be empowered to issue and enforce subpoenas so that it can obtain the documents, testimony, and surveillance footage that enable it to perform meaningful investigations and seek out information overlooked by law-enforcement internal investigations. Despite rumors to the contrary, City Council’s authority to do so by ordinance is well-established under Florida law.
  2. Neither the mayor, nor any other individual, should have the power to appoint more than one-third of the CRB’s members.
  3. The CRB should have its own independent attorney that it does not share with any other city-government subdivision.
  4. The CRB should have a budget for investigations and the ability to retain outside investigators or, alternatively, the CRB’s independent attorney should be able to retain outside investigators on the CRB’s behalf. 
  5. The CRB should have its own administrative staff or, alternatively, a coordinator from Community Affairs should replace the coordinator designated by the Chief of Police for purposes of setting the meeting agendas and other responsibilities other than training CRB members and providing the Tampa Police Department updates.
  6. The CRB should have control over its own agenda and decide for itself what to investigate/review, including the ability to investigate complaints received directly from the public.
  7. The CRB should have the discretion to review any Internal Affairs investigation where discipline is pending.
  8. If the CRB requests information/documents from the Tampa Police Department  (outside of issuance of a subpoena), the Tampa Police Department should be required to provide the information/documents within 30 days or request an extension of time, which the CRB should have discretion to grant or deny. The Tampa Police Department should only be permitted to withhold requested information/documents from the CRB if providing the same would violate a law, in which case such legal basis should be provided to the CRB in writing. 
  9. The CRB member participating in an interview panel for a prospective Tampa Police Department officer should receive all documents/materials regarding the candidate at the same time as other interview panel participants (and in any event, at least seven days before any interview panel takes place). 
  10. A prospective CRB member with a criminal record and/or history of litigation against the City of Tampa should not be categorically disqualified from appointment. Rather, this information should be considered by the city council and/or the mayor when making appointment decisions.
  11. CRB membership should reflect the racial, gender, ethnic, national origin, religious, linguistic, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, and age composition of the City of Tampa population.
  12. The CRB should be empowered to review the credentials of prospective new hires, send a designee to interviews, and give its nonbinding advice as to hiring decisions.

Several groups involved in this coalition include the Hillsborough County NAACP, Greater Tampa Chapter of the ACLU and Tampa for Justice. 

The implementation of a citizen review board in Tampa followed uproar in 2015 after a Tampa Bay Times investigation found that black bicyclists were being disproportionately ticketed by Tampa police. At the time of its creation, there was a different mayor and a different police chief. A panel in place that some say no longer represents the community.

Back in July, Mayor Castor laid out the city's recommendations for its citizen review board, which you can read here.

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