TAMPA, Fla. — Trust, accountability and fear are just some of the issues plaguing the Tampa Police Department, according to Mayor Jane Castor’s community task force on policing.
These findings come on the heels of another Black person being shot by law enforcement. The latest happening in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Officers allegedly shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake in the back several times.
Just three months ago, an officer in Minneapolis killed George Floyd during an arrest, and in March, Louisville officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor while serving a no-knock warrant at her house.
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Taylor and Floyd’s death sparked protests, riots and marches across the world, including here in Tampa.
Mayor Castor asked the task force to survey the community to find out exactly how they feel about local law enforcement. They used a focus group, mostly of African Americans, and revealed their findings during a Zoom meeting Saturday morning.
“I’d like to note this isn’t a representation of the entire Tampa community or TPD,” said Dr. Bryanna Fox.
Fox, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida, led the task force.
“Some of the statements that stood out to me,” Chief Dugan said. “Somebody said they were not afraid to get pulled over, they were afraid that they won’t get home. That’s a profound and impactful statement.”
Chief Dugan said the important thing he learned from the report is, “As a chief, I need to do better.”
Addressing the group and the more than 300 people watching online, the chief said, “You have my pledge that I will take these findings and change, and do better as chief.”
They also addressed the topic of “defunding the police.”
Mayor Castor said it sounds easier than it actually is because “90 percent of the budget goes to officers.”
“That would take officers out of someone’s neighborhood,” she said. “When asked, most residents don’t want officers removed from their neighborhood.”
She and the chief do support allocating funds to agencies that deal with mental health, so those trained professionals can respond to mental health calls.
“Yes, I would support that, but I think it has to be established and proven to work,” said Chief Dugan