Poll: Over 80% of Tampa residents want to vote for police review board changes

The poll found that Tampa voters overwhelmingly support an independent attorney and subpoena power for the police review board.

click to enlarge Tampa Police Department Headquarters. - Photo by Dave Decker
Photo by Dave Decker
Tampa Police Department Headquarters.

Amid renewed calls from Tampa civil rights groups for a police Citizen’s Review Board with more independence, poll results show that a large majority of Tampa voters want the opportunity to vote on it.

Since 2020, the community has called for a review board with more teeth, in order to properly hold Tampa Police Department (TPD) accountable for its many controversial incidents.

Now, leading up to a Charter Review Workshop on May 23 where Tampa City Council could adjust city law to allow CRB changes to be decided on a ballot, the poll shows that voters in Tampa want the opportunity to weigh in.

Of the 590 voters polled, 82% said they would like to vote on whether the police Citizens Review Board should have independent counsel and subpoena power. Just 10% of those polled said they were not sure, and 8% said they disagreed with voting on the issue.

The poll,  commissioned by the ACLU of Florida and carried out by Public Policy Polling, was conducted in June of last year, when community activists and civil rights groups were pushing for the CRB to have the independent powers, in order to make the board more effective.

Mayor Jane Castor, former police chief, stood firmly against the CRB having more independence. With limited powers, the board has been called a “sham” in its ability to address TPD behavior.

The poll also found that 76% of the voters disagreed with one person appointing most of the members of the board. Five of the board’s eleven members were appointed by Mayor Jane Castor, five by city council, and the Hillsborough NAACP got one spot on the board—after approval by council and the mayor.

Voters also overwhelmingly responded that they approve of the CRB being able to subpoena witnesses (74%) and that the CRB should have its own independent attorney (68%).

To make this possible, the Florida ACLU, Greater Tampa Bay Chapter, Hillsborough NAACP, and other activist groups are calling on city council to make adjustments to the city charter at the meeting on May 23.

To change this, the city council would have to propose amendments to the City Charter through an ordinance that would allow the CRB to have an independent lawyer and give the CRB the ability to obtain relevant testimony, documents, images, and recordings from civilians.

The subpoena power would not apply to police, only citizens of Tampa, per a state ruling.

Council members Lynn Hurtak and Bill Carlson told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that they both potentially support the changes, with different concerns and ideas on how to get it done.

Miami-Dade voters passed an independent CRB last year, a move that was applauded by civil rights groups and activists.

The poll was conducted city wide. Of the respondents, 54% were white, 21% African American, 18% were Hispanic or Latino and 7% registered as other. People who identified as women made up 53% of the respondents and 47% identified as male.