In the survey, shared by a candidate with Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, the Tampa Police Benevolent Association (PBA) asks 28 questions of local candidates to decide if the group will give an endorsement. Some are general questions about the background of the candidate, but others are more focused on if the candidate has ever spoken up about police misconduct.
“Have you ever participated in a protest, whether physical, virtual, digital or online or advocated against, publicly or privately, police brutality?” one question asks.
The survey also asks if the candidate has ever been critical of police in general, whether on social media, in public, or in private.
“Have you ever been a member of, donated to, or supported Black Lives Matters whether financially, verbally, online or through social media?” another question asks.
Despite the fact that violent white supremacist groups are on the rise in Florida, there are no questions about a candidate's potential affiliation with such organizations. The survey solely focuses on BLM, which saw a rise in popularity after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, when millions of people around the world hit the streets to demand police accountability.
The PBA didn’t specify if it was referring to the BLM movement in general, or BLM as an organization, which are two very different things.
The PBA has been sending out surveys for years, making it a common practice. But this year’s survey is much longer and more focused on social justice than previous years. In 2019, for example, the survey was five questions long and asked questions about cost of living adjustments, pensions and take home cars.
The survey also asks for thoughts on the Second Amendment, if the candidate owns a gun, and if the candidate believes the Constitution is “a living document.”
The PBA claims in the survey that morale at police departments is at an “all-time low” and asks candidates what can be done to improve the morale. The union also asked for all of the candidates' social media account handles.
Officials at the Tampa PBA have not yet responded to questions about why the survey focuses on BLM and if the union supports candidates who advocate against police brutality.
One candidate the PBA already announced support for is Janet Cruz, the mother of Mayor Jane Castor’s partner, Ana Cruz.
A spokesperson for Cruz said that she has completed the survey, and did not release her responses to CL.
The endorsement of Cruz is a flip by the PBA. Last November, the union endorsed her opponent, Republican Jay Collins who handily beat Cruz in the Senate race for District 14.
On the first anniversary of George Floyd's death, Cruz said that the work towards a more equitable justice system for all Black Americans is not over. She signed the message, "#BLM."
It's unclear why the PBA now supports Cruz, but after losing her senate seat, she told the Tampa Bay Times that increasing the power of the Citizen Review Board (CRB) in oversight of police actions, which Castor opposes, is “a solution in search of a problem.”
A year later, I’m thinking of George Floyd and his family.— Janet Cruz (@SenJanetCruz) May 25, 2021
Justice was served, but our work to ensure a more equitable justice system for ALL Black Americans is not over. I will never truly understand the Black American experience, but know that I stand with you. #BLM
Cruz's opponent in the city council race, incumbent Lynn Hurtak, did vote to give the CRB more tools to provide oversight of the police.
A spokesperson for Mayor Castor, who is a former police chief, was endorsed by the PBA in her 2019 mayoral run, though her campaign said she has not yet received the latest PBA questionnaire.
Other 2022 endorsements from the PBA include Republican Congresswoman Laurel Lee, Republican County Commissioner Ken Hagan, plus Republican James Judge, who lost his election to Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor.
Since the George Floyd uprising in 2020, TPD experienced a wave of criticism from the community for its handling of protesters. The department, which is made up of officers represented by the PBA, has been caught in multiple scandals over the last two years.
Last November, Tampa PBA President and TPD officer Brandon Barclay publicly admitted that he surveilled a local activist who has pushed for police transparency and accountability. This led Tampa City Council to suggest that TPD launch an internal affairs investigation into Barclay, but TPD has not yet answered if that investigation took place.
Barclay and other representatives of the PBA have not responded to questions about the candidate survey.
Tampa municipal elections take place on March 7, and the deadline to register to vote is Feb. 6.