Tampa Police Issues Keep Council Busy

TAMPA -- Tampa City Council had a full plate Thursday morning, dealing with various police issues.

The city heard a presentation from the police department covering long term crime trends and recruiting issues, among other topics. City councilman John Dingfelder noted that the percentage of African-American officers has stalled out at around 14 percent, while the black population of Tampa is around 24 percent. Councilman Orlando Gudes, a 26-year TPD veteran and the council's only African-American member, says the requirement for two years of college may turn off minority applicants who can't afford to pay for community college.

The council heard back from city staff about proposals to give the Citizens Review Board, which reviews police discipline, new powers including subpoena power. The city attorney and a lawyer from a group representing independent police review boards got into an argument over whether granting subpoena power would require an amendment to the city charter. The subpoena power does not apply to police officers, who are protected by the state Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, but would apply to other individuals and evidence such as surveillance videos.

Jeff Stull, attorney for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, worries that internal affairs investigations could be compromised.. in an era when police are in danger and their personal information could be compromised.

Council member Bill Carlson says the issue isn't coming to the fore because of recent protests over police deaths. Instead, e says, it's a left over from five years ago, when then Mayor Bob Buckhorn overruled council and created his own police review board, which the council later ratified. Carlson says the council surrendered some of its powers under the charter to pacify Buckhorn.

Council members decided to ask staff and the city attorney's office to re-draft the proposal to be heard on November 19.

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