Findings from Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s policing task force will be presented this weekend

Castor and Chief Dugan will join USF Professor Dr. Bryanna Fox, who collected the findings.

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Tampa Mayor Jane Castor speaks with a BLM demonstrator outside city hall on June 2, 2020. - Marlo Miller
Marlo Miller
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor speaks with a BLM demonstrator outside city hall on June 2, 2020.

Findings from Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s Task Force on Policing are ready and will be presented to the public via Facebook on Saturday, August 29 at 9 a.m. (primetime, baby).

The findings were collected during task force meetings by a team led by University of South Florida (USF) associate criminology professor Dr. Bryanna Fox (there’ve been two meetings, one in-person and another virtual, a count which Creative Loafing Tampa Bay is seeking to confirm).

Castor and Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan will give remarks during the presentation, and CL reached out to Dr. Fox with a few bulleted questions about the presentation. Fox was short on time and still working on the presentation, but she did tell CL that “each substantive question will be addressed in my presentation tomorrow!” Fox added that the presentation will be an overview of the research methods and the process, and also include a discussion of my findings plus the research that led Fox to each point.

Presentation on findings of mayoral task force on policing
Sat. Aug. 29, 9 a.m

Castor announced the creation of the task force as part of a Juneteenth press conference outlining three a few new standards and practices for the city’s police department.

"The task force will have approximately 40 members from throughout the community and the police department, including but not limited to grassroots organizations, community leaders, business owners, Neighborhood Association members, and the police department,” Castor said on June 19.

The announcement came three weeks after local activists and protesters started taking to the streets to demand accountability from law enforcement and concrete policy changes to address decades of distrust between Tampa’s Black community and police.

At the time, Yvette Lewis, President of Hillsborough’s NAACP branch told CL that she received a direct phone call from Castor about joining the task force.

“I told her I would attend but it can’t be another dog and pony show like Buckhorn’s Citizen Review Board,” Lewis said.

Lewis was referring to Tampa’s Citizen Review Board of the Police Department (CRB), which Mayor Buckhorn formed by executive order in 2015 after a protracted fight with the Tampa City Council over its creation and control. Buckhorn wanted power over the Board and to limit its ability to influence police policy—and he got his way.

Local protest leader Emadi Okwuosa—who was violently arrested by TPD on June 4 before the state attorney eventually found that there was no evidence to support the inciting a riot charge against him—said he turned down an invitation to join Castor’s task force. In a text message, he told CL that he refused to feed into Castor’s “performative promises of change.”

“When we spoke with her in her office she explained she would not be giving into any of our demands and only had intentions of increasing the police budget, so why am I wasting my time trying to help her convince Tampa that she is helping us? She doesn't deserve that credit,” Okwuosa, who’s since moved back to his hometown in Connecticut, wrote. “She shouldn't be given the credit of creating change until change is made.”

A lot has also happened since the first meeting of the task force (June 27, the press was not allowed to attend). Here’s a short recap:

  • Castor’s office told CL that the mayor has no intention of firing the police chief.
  • Castor also requested an increase to TPD’s budget—a move that most of City Council seems to support.
  • Castor staged a surprise press conference on July 16 to discuss her own set of proposed changes to the (CRB), which City Council would have to approve. Lawyers and activists said those proposed changes to the Citizen Review Board fall short.
  • An internal report found that use of force has increased by 24 percent under Dugan; the use of chemical agents went up 223%.
  • An Orlando Sentinel report finds that Tampa Bay police departments—including TPD where officers are 69% white while the city is 45% white—are significantly whiter than the communities they serve
  • TPD tells CL that out of the 926 sworn officers at TPD, 691 have a two-year degree or higher, which is roughly 74% of the force. Just about half of TPD has a bachelor’s degree, and about 16% have an associate’s degree. A 2019 study from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York found that for each college credit an officer had earned, they were less likely to use force—and if force was used, it was often a much lower degree of force

“The work this task force is doing is so important to ensuring that our police department’s policies and procedures align with the evolving expectations and needs of our community,” Mayor Jane Castor wrote in a press release sent less than 24 hours before Dr. Fox’s presentation.

“The Tampa Police Department is committed to building strong relationships with residents across our city," Castor added, "and we look forward to hearing the findings of this working group so that we can continue taking progressive steps forward together.”

The murder of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police officers—plus the treatment of 17-year-old vigilante who killed two protesters in the Wisconsin city—has reignited calls for a major overhaul of police departments across the country.

It’ll be interesting to see how Tampa activists who’ve already organized several actions in the name of Blake, react to the findings.

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. 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...
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