TAMPA (FOX 13) - After months of discussion, all 11 members of the newly created Citizens Review Board in Tampa met for their first meeting on Tuesday night in the Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
The board was proposed last year after report showing 80 percent of all bike citations by Tampa Police are issued to African Americans. Some members of the community said they needed a better way to have their voices heard within the police department.
“I thought it was my opportunity to get involved and to bring the community’s* issues to the table,” said Carolyn Collins, a board member who served as president of the NAACP for five years.
Among the 11 board members, nine of them will serve as voting board members who will review closed cases handled by the police and offer suggestion to Chief Eric Ward on how to better handle certain situation, such as use of force, in the future.
“I want to listen, to be attentive, to try to evaluate what I see and to try to make a difference,” said Collins.
The Tampa Police Benevolent Association (PBA) was present during Tuesday’s meeting. The police union has said from the beginning that they do not feel a citizens review board is needed, because officers are already correctly handling disciplinary actions involving other officers.
“I don’t think we have the issues and the concerns that are on in some other parts of the nation,” said Tampa PBA president Vincent Gericitano. “We’re pretty confident that the procedures and the policies that have been in place for the investigation and discipline of police officers are perfectly fine.”
To help the citizen board members better understand the daily duties of officers, each board member was required to complete the police citizens academy, including ride-alongs with police officers.
“I think most citizens probably don’t know what it takes to become a police officer and beyond that, I think they probably don’t know what police officers go through every single day. When you do a ride along and you spend hours in a car with a police officer, I think that makes an impression,” said Steve Hegarty, spokesperson for the Tampa Police Department.
Board members voted Rasheed Aquil, a sales associate for a locally-owned business, as their chairman.
“We have a wonderful group, a very diverse group. I think the group that is on the Citizens Review Board is a great reflection of the city of Tampa,” said Aquil.
Board members are scheduled to meet again in March.