Diverse group calls for strong citizen review board for Tampa Police

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Andrew Joseph with Tampa For Justice
Andrew Joseph holds a sign with an image of his son at the Tampa For Justice press conference. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (23 Sept 2015).

Some members of Tampa City Council want to go against the legal advice of the city’s attorney and create a civilian board to review actions of the police – or at least appoint more members than Mayor Bob Buckhorn has in mind for a board he created by executive order. And diverse voices of citizens spoke out during a press conference outside City Hall Wednesday morning that they, too, want an independent board.

Mike Pheneger, a retired Army colonel and the chair of the Greater Tampa chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, objected to Mayor Bob Buckhorn saying that residents who want an independent police review board are a “fringe” group.

“And the statistics all show clearly that certain areas and certain groups of people in this town are being over-policed. You can only say that it’s a matter of calculation. We also have some unfortunate incidents that need to be reviewed. Because no bureaucratic organization can accept the idea that it is not susceptible to being subject to outside review by an independent party. This is not a kind of a fringe movement; I don’t consider myself on the fringe at all. And I think the Mayor was wrong in describing us this way. So our message today is that City Council has the authority to create an effective civilian review board, to give it the power to subpoena witnesses and to make recommendations for the improvement of policing and the improvement of the safety of citizens of the City of Tampa. And they need to do it if they have the political will and the guts to get it done.”

Pheneger says Tampa’s city attorney is wrong; the City Council does have the legal right to create a strong civilian review board for police. Pheneger also criticized her for spending $10,000 on an outside advisory opinion about conflicts of interest without asking the very question at hand – who has authority to create a police review board?

Andrew Joseph’s 14-year-old son was killed in traffic outside the Florida State Fair last year. He blames police for kicking his son and many other youth out of the state fair and he called it “police brutality.” Joseph said the community deserves justice not racism. He also called on a citizen review board for the school district.

Lena Young is an activist in the community and is part of the new group called Tampa For Justice. Her husband died after a diabetic episode in police custody, though police had originally told her he had an accident.

“It was only when we were on the way to the hospital that we got a call that told us that my husband died handcuffed on the streets of Tampa with police officers demanding that he stop resisting. He had a diabetic episode.”

Young said she wants an independent police review board with subpoena power.

Tampa City Council will hold a workshop on a review board Thursday beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Audio of the full press conference:

https://soundcloud.com/wmnf/tampajustice0923

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