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Police accountability advocates want additional changes to Citizen Review Board proposal

Posted at 5:02 AM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 07:51:19-05

On Thursday, Tampa City Council members will get a look at an important proposal meant to transform the Citizen Review Board. Its purpose is to help Tampa Police Department be more transparent with the community it serves. But, police accountability advocates say this draft that will be presented to the city council does not go far enough.

The ACLU helped amend the draft, but the organization put out a release with additional changes it wants. The ACLU wants the following to be taken into account:

  • Reducing the number of Mayoral appointments to the CRB
  • Making the CRB attorney independent instead of discretionary
  • Adding subpoena power for members who are not law enforcement
  • Adding a provision that lets the CRB investigate a matter with a 50% vote of the CRB, that would not be limited only to matters where “certain discipline” is involved
  • Limiting the number of former law enforcement that participate in the CRB

The way the proposal is currently written, Mayor Jane Castor would get to pick five of 11 CRB members. An assistant city attorney would be charged with advising the CRB but can seek outside counsel if there's a conflict of interest. That assistant city attorney has to be someone who hasn't worked with or for TPD.

The biggest issue that critics have brought up before encompassing the ACLU's issues with subpoena power and its role in investigations.

The draft is currently written to allow the board to only see what's considered public record. And when it comes to investigations, the CRB only reviews closed cases, then either agrees with the decision, disagrees, or tells the chief they couldn't come to an agreement. Their decision is only a recommendation. The CRB cannot punish an officer or overturn the internal investigation's findings.

When we reported on this story back in June, the President of the NAACP's Hillsborough County Branch summed up the issues with the CRB.

"It has no power, no accountability, no subpoena power so nobody listens to it," Yvette Lewis said.

There are some amendments that made it to the final draft including

  • Allowing CRB members to participate in the TPD interview panel that makes hiring recommendations for officers
  • Allowing the CRB to view TPD complaints
  • Conducting a community survey every two years, instead of three