Tampa police will evolve, pledges mayor, police chief

Police Chief Brian Dugan says his officers know it’s a new day in policing.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announces reforms to the police department Wednesday.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announces reforms to the police department Wednesday. [ CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times ]
Published Sept. 2, 2020|Updated Oct. 20, 2020

TAMPA — For the second time within a week, Mayor Jane Castor and Police Chief Brian Dugan pledged to implement task force recommendations to improve relations between the police department and city residents.

“You can never over-communicate,” Castor said during a news conference at the Tampa Police Department.

Castor said the country is bitterly divided, alluding to the months of protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Tampa must avoid that fate, she said.

“That cannot happen in our city. We are a very diverse, closely-knit community that celebrates our diversity and works together to solve our problems,” Castor said.

Dugan said his department knows it must adapt to a changed policing climate.

“Clearly, people aren’t happy. We can’t continue to do the same things and expect the same results,” he said.

Since June, the city has been convulsed with demonstrations and occasional confrontations between police officers and protesters. Activists have called for Dugan’s dismissal and for Castor to step down. They’ve also asked for a reallocation of money from the police department or “defunding.”

So far, Castor has resisted those calls, saying a small, vocal minority is not in tune with the rest of the city.

Related: Activists want cuts to police budget. Castor isn't budging.

On Thursday, the City Council will likely take up police reform at the first of two budget hearings. Activists are expected to renew calls for defunding the department. A final budget must be approved by Oct. 1.

A task force appointed by the mayor and guided by University of South Florida criminologist Bryanna Fox released its recommendations for police reform on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the city announced it was adopting two right away —codifying that the police seek a judge and police chief’s approval before executing a no-knock warrant and reassigning 40 officers back to neighborhood districts later this month.

Related: Tampa's mayor promises reform. Protesters skeptical.

Other changes, including a revamped response to mental health calls for service and deescalation training are also on the way, Castor said.

Activists have been publicly dismissive of the mayor’s task force and its recommendations, saying that they lack substance.

But Tampa officials pushed back against that perception.

As the department accomplishes each goal, it will be shown on the city’s website, Dugan said.

“We’re going to be held accountable,” Dugan said.