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Tampa Mayor Castor, Police Chief Dugan announce changes to the Citizens Review Board

Back in November, the city delayed making any proposed changes to the board. Now, those changes will take effect immediately.

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan on Thursday gave a long-awaited update on the city's Citizens Review Board.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, both Mayor Castor and Chief Dugan provided details on agreed-upon changes made to the city's Citizens Review Board.

Despite the Chief's presentation at the City Council meeting Thursday, council members voted to extend conversations to next February. They want the CRB to have the right to subpoena community members.

They also want the right to choose the majority of the members on the board. Two changes, the city's administration disagrees with.

"This issue has been drug out for almost a year now," Mayor Jane Castor said during the news conference. "And we all deserve closure." 

Castor said that through the Mayor's Task Force put in place last year to draw up police reform for the Tampa Police Department, many of the proposed changes from that task force have taken effect. 

"It's been a rough year, as you all know," Chief Brian Dugan said during the news conference. "In five days, it will be the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's murder. And the fact that we are still standing here talking about police reform is quite frankly disappointing to me."

"We have worked very hard at the Tampa Police Department to implement change, have accountability and oversight," he continued. "I didn't want it to drag on, I wanted to get it done. I promised a year ago that I would speak less and listen more, and I've done that. But I can no longer stand by quietly. It's time to move forward."

Chief Dugan went on to list the changes TPD has made in the last year, including changes to the "8 Can't Wait" website, banning chokeholds and strangleholds, requiring de-escalation, warnings before shooting, banning officers from shooting into cars. Dugan said many of these policies were already in place but said the department put them in writing. 

The department also banned no-knock search warrants, something Dugan said they never did, but put it in writing to show transparency and build trust. 

Dugan also outlined the department's expanded efforts to build trust within the community. 

"I feel like things have been bogged down now and it's time for the police department to move forward," Dugan said. "And so in conjunction with my conversations with the mayor, we've done a tremendous amount of training. We have worked way too hard for this not to move forward. So we are now going to move forward with an interview panel for prospective officers." 

Chief Dugan said the panel will be made up of three people from TPD's personnel bureau, one retired officer and one member of the Citizens Review Board. 

Dugan said the department will also provide the CRB with all complaints filed against officers and updates on investigations into those complaints. 

In addition to the department's appointed lawyer working with the CRB, an independent attorney that reports directly to the board will be added, Dugan said. 

And, Chief Dugan says the department will notify and work with the board on any use of force changes in department policy. 

However, the CRB will not receive subpoena power, one of the major asks from groups within the Tampa community and from the city council. 

"What I cannot support as chief of police is subpoena power for this board," Dugan said. 

"...They're so concerned about Big Brother watching, but yet they want to have a board with unfettered access to subpoena power," he continued. "They're worried about what's being seen on a government camera yet they want to issue a subpoena to you for what's on your Ring camera. That's just unacceptable. We can't have that."

Dugan said because the CRB members are appointed by the mayor and city council, they can bring their concerns to either the mayor's office or council members. 

"No law enforcement agency is perfect," Mayor Castor said, "but I would submit that we have the best police department in the United States, and I am very proud of the men and women who wear the uniform." 

"I also believe we have the checks and balances in place to identify those individuals who aren't acting appropriately but are tarnishing the badge," she continued. 

The mayor also agreed with Chief Dugan on the CRB not having subpoena power, saying that doing so would give those appointed citizens "unrestricted access" to issue subpoenas to anyone for any reason. 

The changes to the Citizens Review Board will take effect immediately, according to Castor.

The road to making changes to the Citizens Review Board has be long and met with numerous delays. 

In November 2020, the city delayed taking action on proposed changes to the Citizens Review Board. 

Over the summer, in response to the death of George Floyd and dozens of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Mayor Jane Castor, the Tampa Police Department and others promised swift reforms for the CRB.

But months later, the proposal offered only one seat on the board to be selected by Tampa‘s NAACP chapter which would still have to be approved by City Council. During Thursday's announcement, neither the mayor or police chief mentioned if this change would take effect. 

Watch the full news conference here: