Police partner with major university in effort to build community trust

Police make plan to rebuild trust with minorities
Posted at 4:53 PM, Nov 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-01 16:56:21-04

Tampa Police plan to partner with a major university in an attempt to rebuild community trust. 

The program, which is up for city council consent this week, comes months after a federal investigation revealed potential bias in bicycling stops. 

The Dept. of Justice found that 73 percent of riders stopped between Jan. 2014 and Aug. 30, 2015 were Black, while only 26 percent were White. 

The study also revealed that the department's bicycle stop program did not reduce crime, but left a negative impact on the community towards the department. 

"You can't be effective unless you have the community on your side," said Steve Hegarty, spokesperson for the Tampa Police Department. 

Students and faculty from NYU's School of Law and School of Culture, Education and Human Development will work with officers as they host community events. 

The plan involves three goals: 

  1. Working with members of the community by visiting housing projects in some of the areas with high crime rates to get input. 
  2. Visiting schools to get input from students. The first school will be Chamberlain High School. 
  3. Training members of the Citizen's Review Board on how to effectively gather public input. 

"I think this is much larger than bicycle stops," said Hegarty, "I think we're just talking about being in touch with the community." 

The program caught Tampa city council member Frank Reddick by surprise. 

While scheduled for consent from members at Thursday's meeting, he thinks there needs to be more discussion about the topic. 

"They just can't talk," he said, "you've got to have a plan of action." 

The program will cost up to $154,859.  

The department will pay for the program with funding from a federal grant and money from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which uses money from seized property. 

Reddick looks forward to hearing more about the initiative. 

"I hope this is the first step toward trying to make those corrections," he said. 

If approved, the program will last around a year, with participants from NYU gathering data to present on whether or not the methods are effective in helping build trust.