Even Tampa’s police union says Super Bowl events are ‘irresponsible’

The PBA wrote that the events are and putting "dollars over officer lives and safety."

click to enlarge A member of the press participates in the NFL experience during a media preview on Jan. 28, 2021. - DAVE DECKER
Dave Decker
A member of the press participates in the NFL experience during a media preview on Jan. 28, 2021.

The Tampa Police Benevolent Association’s (PBA) support of police is obviously a no-brainer. The union has been opposed to the loudest local activists' calls for major police reform, and on Thursday it chimed in on another officer-related issue: Super Bowl events.

In an open letter to its members, the Tampa PBA wrote about its “disappointment” with the NFL and local NFL host committee's decision to “add more events, parties and gatherings after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made their way to the Super Bowl.”

“Quite frankly, it is irresponsible and it alludes to putting dollars over officer lives and safety,” the letter said.

Creative Loafing Tampa Bay alone wrote about at least 40 unofficial concerts headed to town for Super Bowl weekend, but the PBA’s letter added that “To date, we are aware of almost 90 unofficial Super Bowl events in a five day period.”

“Many of those have national figures, celebrities and entertainers being advertised as being in attendance to help draw a crowd,” the letter said. “That doesn’t even include the official events scattered over six parks along the riverwalk that all need to be secured inside the Event Zone. Additionally, we still have to conduct the day-to-day operations of keeping Tampa secure.”

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and other city officials have said they are focusing on encouragement before enforcement of local mask ordinances and a new executive order mandating masks in outdoor event and entertainment districts.

In a recent Facebook Live video, Castor said city and county code enforcement would be out in high traffic areas helping encourage folks to obey the mayor's outdoor mask order. On Feb. 4, a city spokesperson told CL that the city distributed 55,000 masks in the event and entertainment zones. The same city official, on Feb. 3, would not tell CL how many code enforcements would be out helping encourage people to obey mask orders only saying there would be “A good amount” of them.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan has said that his officers issuing citations would be a last resort, telling the Tampa Bay Times, “We’re just going to hope for the best and hope people comply.”

But local doctors told CL that the community also cannot hope “the reality that tens of thousands of people from across the state, U.S. and world are converging here.”

In a separate statement to the Times, Dugan said officers have been provided with the proper protective equipment and are required to wear it on assignment, adding that he was disappointed that PBA leadership waited three days before the Super Bowl to express concerns. Dugan—who’s had a tumultuous relationship with activists and some communities—was set to retire in September 2019 before the city offered a two-year contract. Should the Super Bowl go off without a hitch, he would be in a good position to retire early with the big game as a feather in his cap.

CL left a voicemail for PBA president Darla Portman and reached out to the Castor’s office for comment. Castor’s office directed us to Dugan’s statement to the Times, and our call to Portman has yet to be returned.

Read the full text of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association’s letter below.

COVID CONFUSED

OPEN LETTER TO THE MEMBERS OF THE TAMPA POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION

We have all heard the dangers of COVID 19 and the unnecessary risks of spreading the illness when in big groups. It seems like none of that is in dispute. So you can imagine our confusion and disappointment with the NFL and the local NFL Host Committee when they decide to add more events, parties and gatherings after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made their way to the Super Bowl. Quite frankly, it is irresponsible and it alludes to putting dollars over officer lives and safety.

To date, we are aware of almost 90 unofficial Super Bowl events in a five day period. Many of those have national figures, celebrities and entertainers being advertised as being in attendance to help draw a crowd. That doesn’t even include the official events scattered over six parks along the riverwalk that all need to be secured inside the Event Zone. Additionally, we still have to conduct the day-to-day operations of keeping Tampa secure.

Don’t get us wrong, we are very proud of our team and we are big supporters. We are not sure what message it sends when you ask our officers to do even more in this pandemic when they are already maxed out covering events that have been in the works for over a year. To be clear we recognize that our management have their hands tied and are doing the best they can to make sure we stay safe.

Weren’t we just asking people to cancel or limit their Thanksgiving and Holiday celebrations less than a month ago? For what it is worth, Tampa even considered canceling and ultimately postponed Gasparilla, our 100+ year tradition, because the risk was and remains too high. The Lightning were in the Stanley Cup and the NHL limited big gatherings and played to virtually empty rinks. The Rays took a similar perspective when they made it to the big show. If the risk is too high for pirates, the Rays and the Lightning, whats so different for the NFL?

We are first responders and we are absolutely used to going into harms way. This is no different, but we always learn to balance risk and safety. This seems extreme.

As your Tampa Police Benevolent Association, we just wanted to make sure you, our membership, understood that we recognize the unnecessary danger you have been put in. We understand you are overworked and undermanned out there. Additionally, we wonder who is considering the potential peril it puts our force in if officers begin to fall ill or have to quarantine because of this unnecessary exposure. If we get sick, who answers a 911 call? We are all about football, but the NFL seems to have forgotten we are about public safety first - not parties, not touchdowns and definitely not profits.

Tampa Police Benevolent Association

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his intro letter and 2021 disclosure. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The Daily Beast. Products...

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