NAACP: Buckhorn's citizen review board not enough

- Most major cities have some form of a civilian review board - an independent group to police the police, but critics say Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's version of a Citizen Review Board misses the point completely.

"The members of the civilian review board are respected and well-meaning," said Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer with the Florida Council of Churches. "But the board itself is run by the police department and the police hand-pick closed cases for review."

Last fall, Buckhorn used an executive order to create a citizen review board, amid protests from some city council members and community groups, who felt his proposal stripped the board of the power to do anything meaningful. Citizens who stood in long lines to participate in public comment at city council meetings raised similar objections.

In November, voters may have the chance to weigh in. 

Tampa for Justice, a coalition of community groups, announced they’ll be collecting signatures to get an amendment on the November ballot – one that would allow for a new citizen investigative panel.

It would allow the group to investigate citizen concerns on their own, with the ability to request documents to review cases – modeled after citizen review panels in other cities.

It would also be independent, with its own staff and budget. Board members would be appointed by city council. The current board’s members are primarily appointed by the mayor.

"If they want to petition to change the charter, they're certainly entitled to,” Buckhorn said after the announcement. “I don't happen to think that the vast majority of this community will support it."

Last April, a Tampa Bay Times investigation found that Tampa Police had issued more than 80 percent of bicycle tickets to black residents in 2014. Tampa's black population is only 29 percent.

"People don't get stopped on Bayshore for not having bike lights. They don't get stopped for riding their bike at two in the morning,” said Natasha Goodley, vice-president with the Hillsborough County chapter of the NAACP. “It's become a modern day stop-and-frisk.”

The revelations shook up the conversation about police and the community they serve and protect. It prompted a Department of Justice inquiry into whether there was a pattern of civil rights violations. City Council Chair Reddick called on the DOJ to release the findings, which were originally due in December.

"People are still being stopped,” Reddick said. “Two days ago, I saw four officers stop a bicyclist on 27th Street. Why did it take four officers to surround one person on their bicycle?"

Reddick says ticket numbers may have gone down, but the style of policing has not changed.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has refused to meet with the NAACP amid concerns about the relationship between black residents and the police.

On Wednesday, Buckhorn made no indications he was willing to sit down with the group. 

"I’m very familiar with their perspective. They've been repeating it for a year," he said. "I don't happen to subscribe to it."

Unable to meet with the mayor, members of the NAACP said they will be meeting with the Office of Civil Rights in Washington D.C. on Friday about their concerns. 

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