Amid calls for policing reforms, Tampa’s police Citizen Review Board met Tuesday night at the Tampa Convention Center. The board has attracted little attention in the past. But more than 100 people attended this week’s meeting.
For more than three hours, speakers addressed the Board during the public comment period. They aired their grievances with their treatment by the police during recent Black Lives Matter protests. And they shared a long list of changes they’d like to see in Tampa’s police department, including firing Police Chief Brian Dugan, reallocating police department funding to schools and mass transit and making police complaints more transparent.
“Every police officer that sprayed innocent protesters, shot at innocent protesters. Why do they still have jobs? Why do we keep paying them? Why And we go to jail? How is that okay?”
Hours into the public comment, the Board asked Police Chief Dugan for a response. With the crowd mocking him, Dugan lashed out.
“I sat there and listened to you but now you don’t want to listen to me,” he argued.
He said he is creating an advisory board to help the department respond to requests for change.
“It’s obvious that law enforcement and the Tampa police department, we need to change the way we are policing,” he said.
Tampa established the Citizen Review Board in 2016 with limited powers. It simply reviews closed internal affairs investigations to determine if police policy was followed. The Hillsborough County NAACP, ACLU, some Tampa City Council members and other local leaders want to expand its powers.
Current and former board members have said they are frustrated by the Board’s limited scope. But expanding powers requires changes to local and state law. Board member Carolyn Collins on Tuesday said the CRB can still provide an outlet for airing concerns.
“Don’t dare think that the individuals sitting up there at this board have not had a special interest in making sure things are done right in this community. We just haven’t had the support of the community here.”
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has said a police task force she created will consider changes to the Citizen Review Board. The Tampa City Council has also recommended changes that will be considered this summer.