CLEARWATER, Fla. - Police departments in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota all have citizen review boards, created years ago as a bridge between departments and the communities they serve.
The Clearwater NAACP is calling for other Bay Area sheriffs and police chiefs to create their own.
“I think it’s time for Largo, Clearwater, the sheriff’s department, Tarpon Springs to also have citizens review boards,” said Zebbie Atkinson IV, who leads the Clearwater NAACP.
In a memo sent to Pinellas County officials and area police departments, the Clearwater NAACP is requesting two changes: the first, however, would come at the federal level.
“We’re asking for a bill similar to the HATES Law that would govern police in their actions,” he said.
Hate crime laws have been in place since the Lyndon Johnson administration, in 1968, making it a crime for anyone to use force against a person because of their race, color or religion.
Locally, their request for a review board would include specifics like reviewing officers’ records of discipline. Something Atkinson says should have been done with Derek Chauvin, who had a use-of-force history.
“Little things happen, little things happen, little things happen, and then a big thing happens. If you can catch it in its infancy, you know? Everybody doesn’t need to be a police officer.
They are also requesting that law enforcement ban the use of all choke-and-knee holds as an acceptable use of force.
“It’s not all police officers that are bad, we know that there are only a few officers that are bad,” he said. “Some people are just scared. And they will come out to any scene with hand on gun or guns drawn.”
They’re hoping to hear from local leaders on their requests in the coming weeks.