Critic says Buckhorn’s Police review board not independent

Laila Abdelaziz
Laila Abdelaziz. By Seán Kinane/WMNF News. August 31, 2015.

On Friday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced a new Citizens Review Board to keep an eye on the city’s police department; on WMNF’s MidPoint, Seán Kinane spoke with Laila Abdelaziz, a critic who is part of a movement that thinks an independent board is needed instead.

Abdelaziz is legislative and government affairs director at CAIR Florida – the Council on American Islamic Relations.

We talked about why she thinks there should be a citizens review of police in Tampa and some problems that residents are concerned about when it comes to Tampa Police.

This coming Thursday the Tampa City Council is set to take up the issue of a Citizens Review Panel. Some people think that the announcement by Mayor Bob Buckhorn last Friday was a way to preempt that discussion to put together a board of people mostly appointed by him. Abdelaziz has criticized the board as not independent.

In a letter to City Council, city attorney Julia Mandell said it’s the Mayor, not City Council that has the authority to oversee the behavior of police officers. She wrote “neither the Tampa City Charter nor general or special law would allow for the delegation of subpoena power to a Citizen Police Review Board, even one created by executive order of the Mayor.” In addition she said Council “does not have the authority to delegate [police review] authority to a review committee or review board which is created via ordinance. The only authority City Council has under the Charter would be to undertake a review of a particular incident (after all other formal investigations have been completed), and to make recommendations to the City Council regarding said matter.”

Mayor Buckhorn was invited on the program. Afterward in a voice message his office said he is on a trade mission in Ireland.

Tuesday there’s a press conference called “Tampa needs a REAL Citizen Review Board for TPD Now!” On the Facebook event page, it says “Mayor Bob Buckhorn has insulted citizens of Tampa who are raising their voices loud and clear that we need a REAL Citizen Review Board for Tampa Police – not a bogus board filled with his appointees that as no real power.” They’ll be announcing their own proposal.

At a Tampa City Council meeting last Thursday, the new Police Chief, Eric Ward said fewer bicycle riders are getting tickets.

“Comparing 2014 to ’15, you can see there’s a significant decrease in the number of citations that were issued during the previous three months. … So you can see over the past three months there’s a 69 percent decrease.”

A Tampa Bay Times investigation published in April found that Tampa Police issued far more tickets to bicyclists than any other city in the state and that 80 percent of the people ticketed were black.

Ward was confirmed as Police Chief in May. He says the same month the department changed the way warnings to bicyclists were recorded.

City Council chair Frank Reddick has been critical of the police citing so many bicyclists, especially in his east Tampa district; until he got the news last Thursday.

“All right, Chief, I think I feel a little bit more at ease riding my bike now.”

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