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Tampa activists rally for subpoena power and demand police accountability

By staff |
November 3, 2022
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Tampa, FL – More than 20 Tampa residents gave public comment at the Tampa City Hall, November 1 about the city council’s voting to put subpoena power on the March ballot, which would give the now toothless civilian review board (CRB) power to subpoena the police. Tampa Bay Community Action Committee (TBCAC) held a press conference in front of the city hall, on Sunday October 30, in support of subpoena power and to publicize the upcoming city council vote.

“This call for subpoena power through the CRB has been an ongoing conversation that the community was able to bring to another level,” said longtime Tampa activist Connie Burton. “We are asking the city council to do the right thing by the citizens of this community. Give us an opportunity and let the people vote.” 

Joseph Nohava from the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee stressed that this is a democratic demand and TPD cannot be trusted to police themselves, given their countless cover-ups and lies in the past years. 

James Shaw Jr. with the ACLU pointed out that “CRBs in other municipalities in Florida already have their own independent attorney and the power to issue subpoenas.” He added, “These are common sense reforms that catch Tampa up with the other municipalities in Florida. This is not a final solution, but it is a step in the right direction and a step that needs to be taken.” 

Activists and members of the community flooded the public comment section during the city council meeting, demanding that they let the people vote on subpoena power and independent attorney for the CRB. Speakers from the public pointed out the lobbying and intimidation done by the state attorney and the chief of police to prevent the City Council from putting subpoena power on the ballot. 

Before the start of the public comment section, Councilman Citro urged a judge to speak last in opposition to giving power of subpoena to the CRB. The games being played behind closed doors are undemocratic and go to show the lengths that TPD would go to just to prevent people from voting on more police accountability and transparency. 

During public comment, mouthpieces of the Police Benevolent Association resorted to personal attacks on advocates of increased police oversight and accountability. James Shaw Jr. with the ACLU, who was singled out by these attacks, said, “They don’t have any good policy arguments about why the CRB is better off with a conflicted attorney, or with incomplete information. So they have focused on personal attacks on individual advocates. But it’s not about me; it’s about having accountability that the people can trust.”

After keeping the public waiting seven hours in council chambers, a 15-minute discussion and vote took place as the last agenda item. A motion to prepare an ordinance around allowing the CRB independent counsel passed 4-2, (Maniscalco and Citro against. Miranda not present). A motion to prepare an ordinance allowing the CRB to gain power of subpoena failed 3-4, (Manisalco, Citro, and Miranda against). 

The CRB was created in 2016 in response to the Tampa police targeting Black folks in Tampa with an overwhelming increase in bicycle traffic stops. The “Biking while Black” targeting is still going on.

Activists were joined by speakers from ACLU FL, Hillsborough NAACP, Florida for Change, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society. 

Taylor Cook, member of Tampa Bay Community Action Committee, concludes “We won independent counsel, we knew subpoena power was going to be a hard battle. This is not the end of the fight - that’s the point of having a campaign. To win all that can be won in a long term fight!”

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