Nov 3, 2022 - News

Tampa City Council blocks police accountability vote

Illustration of Tampa City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Tampa voters will not have a say on a police oversight issue that has been debated for years.

Driving the news: Tampa City Council this week voted against drafting an ordinance that would allow the public to decide whether the city's Police Citizen Review Board (CRB) should have subpoena power to obtain its own evidence.

  • The council's Joe Citro, Luis Viera, Charlie Miranda and Guido Maniscalco were against the public vote, with Lynn Hurtak, Orlando Gudes (a former police officer) and Bill Carlson in favor, Creative Loafing reports.

Why it matters: Civil rights groups have demanded that the CRB have subpoena power since the board was established in 2015, but police and the city's last two mayors have opposed the effort, Creative Loafing reports.

  • A 2021 poll of 590 Tampa voters, commissioned by the ACLU of Florida, showed that more than 80% wanted to vote on subpoena power for the CRB.

What they're saying: The mayor's spokesperson, Adam Smith, in a statement to Fox 13, called the proposal an "extreme step that would threaten the civil liberties of our neighbors, family and friends."

  • "This subpoena power proposal would not give the CRB authority to subpoena police officers, but it would give an unelected volunteer board the power to force any resident of Tampa to appear, testify, and produce private text messages, emails and videos under the threat of civil or criminal penalties," Smith told the station.

The other side: "I don't understand how we're supposed to be a progressive forward city when we have to beg to be able to vote on an issue that people care about," Tampa Bay Community Action Committee member Taylor Cook told the council, per Creative Loafing.

Of note: The council agreed to draft up an ordinance to let voters decide on an independent attorney for the CRB.

  • The board currently shares an attorney with the city attorney's office, which the ACLU claims creates a conflict of interest.

What's ahead: The attorney ordinance has more readings and votes ahead before it could make it on the March 2023 ballot, Creative Loafing reports.


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