Former Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan says the 'Bock The Blub' mural should be removed

Dugan says the mural was overwhelmingly disliked by himself and many TPD officers.

click to enlarge The controversial "Back the Blue" mural in downtown Tampa. - Dave Decker
Dave Decker
The controversial "Back the Blue" mural in downtown Tampa.
Nearly two years after the creation of Tampa's entirely illegible "Back The Blue" mural, retired police chief Brian Dugan now says it needs to go.

"I think it's probably time for them to move on and get rid of it," said Dugan in a recent interview with Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

The mural, which is located in front of Police Headquarters at 411 N Franklin St., was created on Aug. 1, 2020, at the height of the George Floyd civil rights protests and while Dugan led the department. 

Overnight, people affiliated with the Facebook group “Back The Blue Florida,” illegally shut down the street and painted the mural without a permit.

"I think the people who were doing it had started off with good intentions," said Dugan, who retired Sept. 10 of last year. "But now it looks more like a first grader's art project. The bottom line is we screwed up. We shouldn't have allowed it to happen."

Since its inception, the "Bock the Blub" mural, as it's been referred to, has been widely mocked, spray-painted over, and has been the focal point of multiple protests.

It all came to a head in a late August of 2020, when TPD arrested multiple Black Lives Matter protesters on criminal mischief charges, after they attempted to show inherent policing bias by painting a portion of a Curtis Hixon Park sidewalk without a permit.

While those charges were later dropped, no arrests were ever made for the "Back the Blue" muralists.
Until now, exactly who approved the mural has been somewhat of a mystery, with some speculating that the final nod may have came from Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who at the time did support an “essential worker mural that included first responders.”

But Dugan said the mural was mistakenly given the greenlight by a shift commander, who thought the group had the necessary approval from above.

"They had enough information to convince the shift commander that they had permission to do it," explained Dugan. "The reality is the shift commander made a mistake and shouldn't have allowed that to happen. And then after that, it just kind of became a political lightning rod."

While he now says he couldn't express it at the time, Dugan says the mural was overwhelmingly disliked by himself and many TPD officers.

"If there was any poetic justice, the protesters that were hating on the police had no idea that we thought it was ugly, too. They weren't the ones who had to look at it every day like I had to. The irony of the whole things is they thought we loved it, and we were like 'No, this is ugly. We agree," said Dugan. 

"Quite frankly, it was a very stressful time for me as chief and for the men and women of the Tampa Police Department, and that ugly mural was kind of a humorous point for us, kind of brought some levity to the situation."

"I was like, 'So you painted this mural. Now the cops have to fight over it.' That's not helping," explained Dugan.

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After the mural was first created, one of the mural organizers, Kristen Krutz, told the Tampa Bay Times that the group knew they didn’t obtain a permit, but decided to go through with it anyway because Tampa has Black Lives Matter murals “all over the city.”

“The reason why we decided to proceed without a permit is because Black Lives Matter has murals all over the city that say Black Lives Matter, and they were not permitted,” Krutz said to the paper.

Of course, this isn't true. Tampa’s "Unity" murals were in fact approved by the city as part of Castor’s Art on the Block program.

"I was like, 'So you painted this mural. Now the cops have to fight over it.' That's not helping," explained Dugan. "You didn't even do it the right way. You lied to the cops to get it done. If you're going to 'Back the Blue'  you can't be misleading to the cops, and it just created more of a flashpoint than anything. It didn't help anything."

Dugan now says he doesn't believe a replacement mural is necessary, but the current "Bock the Blub mural" as it stands should be removed immediately.

"In my opinion," said Dugan, "they need to either pressure wash it, paint over it, you know, set it on fire, anything to get rid of that eyesore."

It might be awhile.

In an email to CL, City of Tampa Media Relations Manager Lauren Rozyla says that  "administrators have not had any discussions as of yet regarding the removal of the Franklin Street Mural." 

About The Author

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.
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