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Tampa Mayor Jane Castor selected for nationwide police reform initiative

The Police Reform and Racial Justice Working Group will create recommendations for local governments and law enforcement across the country.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has been selected to participate in the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Police Reform and Racial Justice Working Group.

The group aims to “come up with a guiding set of principles that can be utilized nationwide” to address discrimination against black Americans in policing, Castor said. She is one of three mayors in the country to be chosen, along with three police chiefs.

“As a 31-year veteran of the Tampa Police Department and former police chief, I could not think of a more important conversation to be having right now than this,” Castor said in the June 8 press release.

This is not the first task force to attempt nationwide police reform. The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing was created by President Barack Obama in 2014 in response to the shooting of Michael Brown by an officer in Ferguson, Mo. The task force released a report in 2015 with their recommendations, as well as an implementation guide for local governments and law enforcement, but few cities implemented the suggestions.

Related: What a difference a month makes for Tampa Mayor Jane Castor

When asked what makes this working group different, Castor admitted its members have been wrestling with the question.

“There are a lot of guidelines that already exist," she said Tuesday in an interview with the Times. "This isn’t the first time this has been tried. But it’s the first time we’ve had the entire nation’s attention.”

The key, said Castor, is creating actionable solutions. “That’s where we will find success, so that’s what we’re focusing on,” she said.

Castor has made it clear she won’t support defunding the police.

“When you say ‘defund the police,’ that means you want to take police officers out of the neighborhood," she said. "That happens on a ‘last to come, first to go’ basis. So quite often, younger, minority officers will be removed.”

Castor pointed to a need to increase funding for social services. “We’re asking police officers to do too much. We underfund social services like education and mental health, which creates an excess of tasks for police officers around the country,” she said, noting that the working group will have to discuss where this increased funding would come from.

Other members of the working group include the mayors of Chicago and Cincinnati, the police chiefs of Baltimore, Phoenix, and Columbia, S.C., and three experts.

The group plans to meet “as often as possible,” said Castor. “We have two calls this week, and then we intend to do a lot through email and to work as quickly as we can.”

While there is no deadline for recommendations, Castor said the group is aiming for “sometime in July.”

She admits the fight against systemic racism in law enforcement is a difficult one, but Castor is hopeful.

“This is the first time I’ve seen a singular incident, the murder of George Floyd, get the entire nation’s attention,” she said. “I’m very optimistic that this is the moment in history when we can actually effect positive change.”

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