Tampa Citizens Review Board holds meeting amid political fight

Sitting at the same dais where city councilors will determine the future of Tampa Police Department's Citizens Review Board, one member needed clarity.

"It leaves a bit of confusion for people in the community," said member Carolyn Collins. "Are we still here? What are we going to do? How are we going to do it?"

Councilors are nearing a final vote to appoint seven members and relegate the mayor to three. It's an emotional fight, given the board's duties of reviewing uses of force by TPD, and it took on new meaning after the death of George Floyd.

The NAACP supports the council's push and wants the right to appoint an eleventh member.

"African Americans did not start this fight," said Yvette Lewis, the president of the Hillsborough County NAACP. "We did not start ‘biking while Black.’ We did not start ‘driving while Black.’"

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Under rules instituted in 2015 after an outcry over tickets given to Black bicyclists, the mayor currently appoints six members, but says she is willing to go 5-5 with the council.

Though they do not have subpoena power, TPD Chief Brian Dugan told the board that officers will report all internal affairs complaints to the board, that a city attorney will be at all their meetings, and officers will keep them updated on how use of force guidelines evolve.

"To just be transparent so they are aware of what we are doing, how things are going, what type of complaints we are getting in the city," said Chief Dugan.

Despite all the public attention, thanks to the Castor vs. Council fight, Tuesday's meeting was sparsely attended.

As the board waits to see if its members will be changing, the chair told FOX 13 that politics won't play a role in their work.

"We still have a responsibility to the community, and being that most of us are volunteers, you get your best work ethic out of such members," said chair Rasheed Aquil.

The next vote on how the board will be made up is going to be June 17.

There is disagreement over whether the council even has the right to make these changes under the city charter.

The mayor says they don't.