More than a hundred people packed into Beulah Baptist Institutional Church in Tampa to find solutions to complicated problems community leaders continue to face with law enforcement and the community they serve.
Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward was put on the defensive as some people in the crowd during the question and answer session attacked the department’s standing in the community.
“I believe our department’s relationship with the community is solid,” Ward told the crowd.
“You think so?” a man in the crowd fired back.
“From the statistics, yes,” Ward responded back. “Unless you are stepping in my shoes, you don't see it.”
A lot of people in the meeting asked that Tampa have more officers embedded in the community, asking for more officers working a beat, talking to at risk youth, and making their presence felt.
“What happened in Minneapolis, Dallas and Baton Rouge could easily have happened here,” Pastor W. James Favorite said. Favorite hosted the event. He acknowledged Tampa police are in the community, but they aren’t policing the way he would.
“We need relational policing,” Favorite said. “It's difficult to shoot a community member when you know them.”
Ward said unlike other cities across the country, Tampa has not been the center of a controversial officer involved shooting. He said his department continues to work to try to get better every day so that never happens.
“We have a good relationship with our community. That's why we don't have police shootings every day. Last year, we took over 1,200 firearms off the street, and not one of those resulted in a police shooting," said Ward. "That speaks volumes to the professionalism of our agency.”