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Tampa officials reach compromise over police oversight board




Tampa mayor Jane Castor speaks at a May press conference regarding the controversial Citizens Review Board.

Debate over who appoints members of Tampa’s Citizens Review Board (CRB) reached a shaky compromise Thursday.

Council members voted 4-3 to share appointments to the 11-member police oversight board equally with Mayor Jane Castor, leaving one seat open for the NAACP to nominate a member from its organization. 

But the NAACP’s appointment will still be subject to Castor and the city council’s review, a decision activists say gives the mayor majority control over the panel through her ability to veto the nomination.

James Shaw, legal panel chair of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, has been rallying for months to get Tampa’s city council to remove Castor’s majority control of the appointments, and to vote on giving the review board its own attorney and subpoena power. 

“(The CRB) needs to be an independent voice of the citizens as to matters of policing, answerable only to the citizens,” Shaw wrote online

While council members ultimately considered the 5-5-1 split between CRB appointments to be a worthy compromise, activists like Shaw think they gave into the mayor’s office. 

“This was no compromise; this was a shutout,” he said to the Catalyst. “The law enforcement side … got absolutely everything that they wanted, and the reformers got nothing in the way of reform.”

The ACLU activist explained that mayors in other Florida cities like Miami and Fort Myers are only allowed to appoint one or two members on their comparable police accountability boards, while city council members are generally responsible for appointing the rest.

City officials went back and forth on multiple issues regarding the CRB this year, but the argument over who gets to appoint its board members rose to the top of the debate.

During a special city council session on Monday, Councilmember Orlando Gudes pointed to contention between city officials by expressing concern over possible legal battles, saying “people sue everyday, (but) do you want to spend this kind of money?”

Tampa’s city council had originally proposed appointing seven members itself and giving four to Castor, but Castor went public to say she would not relinquish her majority role in the CRB because of her obligations as mayor to the police department. 

Councilmembers Joseph Citro and Gudes changed their earlier votes, which favored the 7-4 split, and joined council members Luis Viera and Charlie Miranda to vote yes during Thursday’s meeting on the 5-5-1 split between the council, the mayor and NAACP.

Council members Bill Carlson, John Dingfelder and Guido Maniscalco voted no. 

“I have no doubt in my mind that the NAACP will fight for all peoples of color, no matter what the color be, and they will also fight just as hard for any sexual orientation or any religion,” Citro said, voicing his support ahead of the vote.

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