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City of Tampa announces citizen review board recommendations

The recommendations come as conversations across the nation on community policing continue.
Credit: City of Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. — Mayor Jane Castor laid out the City of Tampa's full recommendations for its citizen review board as the climate around policing across the nation, and in Tampa, continues to be a point of contention.

Castor said she spoke with community leaders, organizations, advocates and law enforcement officers over several weeks regarding policing concerns and solutions before coming to the recommendations.

"The Tampa Police Department exists to serve our community. They're the only arm of government that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to any call for service," Castor said.

She also noted that the Tampa Police Department responds to more than 1 million issues annually.

In the interest of helping "enhance" and "empower" the city's citizen review board, here is a breakdown of the city's recommendations: 

Recommended enhancements: 

  • The police department’s hiring process will be reviewed with and by the citizen review board.
  • The board will participate in a newly formed Tampa Police Department interview panel along with retired and active police department officers.
  • The board should have the added ability to review professional standards cases once they are closed, but before disciplinary decisions and provide feedback to the chief of police.
  • The board should have the ability to review monthly notifications from the complaint tracking system to see a list of new complaints and see the status of pending investigations.

Recommended additional duties:

  • The board chair and coordinator should review complaints on a weekly basis through a separate email chain.
  • The board should be responsible for obtaining a public feedback survey every three years regarding the police department's policy and procedures to ensure it aligns with public needs.
  • The board coordinator should begin hosting workshops to train the board, at minimum bi-annually, on the following topics (not limited to): standards or policies related to the use of force, law enforcement ethics, pursuits, grievances, public records, hiring processes and procedures and body-worn camera policy and procedure.
  • The board coordinator should be responsible for notifying the citizen review board about new use of force policies or changes in the annual city council report. It must include information and statistics for any recommended changes.

Recommended administrative changes:

  • The citizen review board website will announce meetings and post agendas online to ensure more accessibility.
  • Hold meetings on a rotating basis through each council district to ensure community-wide participation.
  • Every meeting should contain an educational component on policy, procedure, program or issue of interest between residents and the Tampa Police Department.
  • Each meeting will be live-streamed with a “ticker” at the bottom allowing residents to express concerns, complaints or provide positive feedback.
  • Two more board members should be added. One from the NAACP and the other from either the University of South Florida or the University of Tampa's criminology department.
  • Membership criteria should be changed to exclude those that have been arrested by or are suing the police department to ensure it remains unbiased.

"It is my hope that these changes will empower the citizen's review board to continue fostering transparency, increasing accountability and strengthening that bond of trust and respect between the Tampa Police Department and the community they serve," Castor said after delivering her recommendations.

Current board chairman Rasheed Aquil said the city has been flexible in this process and is looking to address community concerns sharing that "working together we can all create a better city."

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