Tampa City Council discusses police review board

Dozens of residents spoke out at Thursday's city council meeting against the proposed selection process for the newly created Citizens Review Board.

The purpose of the board is to review Tampa Police cases to ensure officers are better serving the community.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn was criticized for his executive order last Friday, stating he will have the authority to select eight of the eleven members on the board.  The Tampa City Council will select the remaining two members.

“We asked for a board to be put together by us, for us. We’re the ones that are having problems with the police department," said Ali Mohammed, one of many people who wore a "Tampa for Justice" shirt to the meeting. "Mayor Bob Buckhorn doesn’t live in east Tampa. He doesn’t stay in west Tampa.”

Council members were upset the decision was not discussed with them before the announcement was made.

“There needs to be accountability and representation of the people that elected you all," said south Tampa resident Terre Tulsiak.

Others argued the review board is unnecessary and could lead to lawsuits for the city.

“I think the Tampa Police Department does a great job in policing itself," said Vincent Gericitano, president of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association. “In the state of Florida, we have rules and procedures in place, state laws that say how they’re able to investigate our police officers that are accused of wrongdoing. I caution them in what they’re looking for to put in place.”

Police Chief Eric Ward, who told council members weeks prior, he was studying review boards around the country, advised the council he would be in favor of modeling Tampa's board after the citizen review board in St. Petersburg.  “We have similarities in our crimes, our citizens, our make-up of the people, and I thought that practice of that board would be fit best for our agency," said Chief Eric Ward.

Council members argued St. Petersburg's model has not been updated since it was initiated in the 1990's, and its practices may not be the best fit for the problems the city is currently facing.

Chief Ward was also advised by council members to bring all of his findings to them for review, rather than solely presenting his recommendation. They also asked Chief Ward to come back to the board on September 17 with more information, including a plan that would allow them to appoint seven members, leaving the mayor with the authority to choose just two members and two alternates.