Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Public safety

Tampa police union supports boycott of Beyoncé's music but doesn't tell members not to work her Tampa concert

TAMPA — Beyoncé sparked a backlash after the release of the video for her new single Formation and her performance of the song at the Super Bowl. Critics say both have fueled a growing national hostility toward police.

Law enforcement officials have expressed their displeasure to reporters and in online forums. But there's another way for cops to give Bey the cold shoulder: boycott her concerts and even refuse to work lucrative off-duty security details at the shows.

It's already happening in Miami, where the Fraternal Order of Police voted to boycott the pop star's April 27 concert at Marlins Park and is urging other law enforcement labor unions across the country to join them.

So what about Tampa, where Queen B will land two days later for a show at Raymond James Stadium?

Vinny Gericitano, president of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, said the union isn't planning on boycotting security detail and it's up to officers whether they volunteer for the extra duty.

"They're not happy with her political views and I think we as an organization should boycott certainly the purchase of her music and the attendance at her concerts," he said.

But come show time, he said, "we're going to do a great job and it's going to be properly policed."

Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty denied a published report that not a single officer has volunteered for the show, saying more than a dozen have already stepped up and the list is growing every day.

"It's still two months away," he said. "We wouldn't expect all the slots to be filled at this point for an event in April," he said.

Thursday afternoon, the department tweeted on the matter:

(As Beyoncé's loyal subjects pointed out, her collective fanbase is known as the "Beyhive," but TPD made its point.)

Off-duty officers are paid $34 an hour to work special events and the wage is paid by the venue, not the department, Hegarty said. Several factors go into an officer's decision to work and in some cases, personal feelings about the event or performer — in this case, bad feelings about Beyoncé — might be one of them.

"I don't doubt some people are making a decision that way but as far as a boycott, I haven't heard anything and our union hasn't said anything," Hegarty said.

At least some local cops are fired up, judging from posts in the Tampa Police Department section of the online forum leoaffairs.com.

"PBA and the membership needs to send a strong message to the community and Beyoncé that we will not stand for this and to boycott all off-duty jobs associated with her," one anonymous commentor wrote. "Make the department adjust, but under no circumstances should anyone sign up to work those jobs. Just like when NYPD turned their backs on their mayor, we need to unite and send a clear message that TPD does not stand for this."

The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office also works events at Raymond James Stadium. Deputies are not represented by a union, but sheriff's spokeswoman Cristal Nunez said officials have not heard of any plans for deputies to boycott the show.

Music critics have called Formation one of the most politically charged releases of Beyoncé's career.

"You will hear a lot in the coming days about what a socio-political statement Beyoncé made with Formation, but the truth is most of this is coming not from the lyrics, but the video," Tampa Bay Times pop music critic Jay Cridlin wrote after the surprise release of the video on Feb. 6.

The five-minute video opens with the pop star perched on the top of a New Orleans police car partially submerged in floodwaters. As the video unfolds, the water slowly rises and, in the climax, drowns them both.

Perhaps even more controversial is a scene Cridlin described as "a tableau of Black Lives Matter protestation." In the scene, a young boy in a black hooded sweatshirt is confronted by a line of police officers in riot gear. When the boy raises his hands over his head, the officers do, too. The camera then pans across a wall spray-painted with the words: "Stop shooting us."

During the Super Bowl performance of the song, Beyoncé and her back-up dancers donned black costumes that some said recalled those worn by the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary organization formed in the 1960s in response to police brutality and that sometimes committed violent acts.

"It's inciting bad behavior," National Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jonathan Thompson told the Washington Post this week. "Art is one thing, but yelling fire in a crowded theater is an entirely different one."

That sentiment is fueling the Miami boycott, according to a press release from Miami FOP president Javier Ortiz.

"The fact that Beyoncé used this year's Super Bowl to divide Americans by promoting the Black Panthers and her antipolice message shows how she does not support law enforcement," Ortiz said in the release. "We ask all law enforcement labor organizations to join our boycott across the country and to boycott all of her concerts."

If Tampa police do fall short for Beyoncé's show, the department could seek assistance from law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions, which happens regularly, Hegarty said.

"Bottom line: We'll staff the event," Hegarty said.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

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