Religious leaders, Tampa mayor discuss ways to improve relationship between black community and police

African-American church leaders in Tampa said they want to lead the call for peace and justice in the community -- starting with sharing ideas with the mayor.

The topics of racial injustice have been on the forefront since the death of George Floyd, fueling massive protests with calls to end a broken system that demonstrators say is a reflection of systematic racism.

On Monday night, the religious leaders met with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to discuss possible solutions to racial injustice and police brutality. Castor said she realized there is a problem within law enforcement. 

"It's one thing to listen and learn and apologize, and you don't make any changes," Castor said. "it's another to listen, learn and leverage that and then make systemic changes. What I want the community to know is we're listening. We're here and it takes that conversation, quite often uncomfortable conversation, to effect positive change."

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The community leaders had several requests for the police department, including ending use-of-force tactics on peaceful protestors, like pepper spray and projectiles. 

"We believe there is a policy change that is needed," said Christopher Harris, executive pastor of Crossover Church. "We also believe there is a communal change that is needed and we wanted to put all of that on the table."

They also asked for more transparency and communication between elected leaders and the community.