TAMPA — Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan has already heard an earful.
Local activists have marched in Tampa’s streets for months, calling for police reform in general and at Dugan’s department in particular. Some have criticized the department’s response to protests and called for the chief’s firing. Dugan and Mayor Jane Castor have acknowledged the need to adapt and have announced steps to change the department’s approach to policing.
Now Dugan is starting another effort to get feedback from Tampa residents by selecting members for his new Community Advisory Team. He said the objective is to get thoughts on how the department is doing and “what we can do better.”
“My motto through this whole thing has been, I need to be a better listener and police in general need to be better listeners,” Dugan said. “So that’s why the goal ultimately is to just sit down and let them talk.”
A call for applications, posted on the city’s website in July, described the team’s mission this way: “To establish and maintain direct, open, and ongoing dialogue between members of the community and the Chief of Police with the purpose of enhancing community relations, re-building trust and generating ideas for positive change to community policing.”
The team is separate from Castor’s 40-member Police Reform Task Force composed of community leaders, business owners, neighborhood association leaders and police officers.
Dugan received 28 applications and selected 10 people. He invited an 11th member who didn’t apply to participate.
The team is mostly professionals: There are two attorneys, a Realtor, a restaurateur, a retired St. Petersburg police officer, a college professor, a private school executive and a county risk management worker. They range in age from 36 to 67.
Dugan said he believes the team as a whole represents a diverse cross-section of experience that will be helpful. One of the attorneys, for example, will bring experience with Tampa’s immigrant community. Several have lived in Tampa most or all of their lives.
Team members serve for one year. Dugan said he will meet one on one rather than as a group, at least at first.
“When you get large groups together, sometimes people get overshadowed, their voice doesn’t get heard,” he said. “The goal is for them to be a little more open.”
Ferren Mobley, 36, didn’t apply but accepted Dugan’s invitation. A lifelong resident of Tampa, Mobley had taken part in local protests, addressed the Citizen Review Board and had previous conversations with Dugan and Castor. In June, he was shot twice in a drive-by shooting in Robles Park, leaving him unable to work as a line cook, he told the Tampa Bay Times.
Mobley said he’ll stress that the police force needs to take a more personal approach in the neighborhoods they patrol.
“You should know a lot of people on a first-name basis, not because they’re a suspect or a victim, but because they’re a person in the community,” he said. “Find the heart in them.”
Most important, Mobley said, city officials need to do more to help impoverished Black residents lift themselves up by helping them start businesses and create jobs.
“If you give the community what they really need, you won’t have to do all that policing,” he said.
Here are the other 10 members of Dugan’s advisory team based on information included in their applications:
Veronica Blakely, 65, is program coordinator for Hillsborough County’s Risk Management Department and has lived in Tampa for 60 years. She is a member of the Hillsborough branch of the NAACP, a former board member of the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs and former board chairwoman of the Regional Black Chamber of Commerce, among other volunteer efforts. She lives in New Tampa.
“With this experience, I would be equipped to convey the needs of the community while sharing positive policing practices that are beneficial to both sides,” Blakely wrote.
Joseph Anthony Caimano, Jr., 43, is a criminal defense lawyer who lives in Hyde Park and has been a Tampa resident for 14 years. He volunteers with Bay Area Legal Services helping physical and sexual abuse victims obtain injunctions against their abusers.
Connie Gage, 57, is a Realtor with the Toni Everett Company and a lifelong Tampa resident who lives in Hyde Park. She serves as chairwoman of the board of the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce and manages the homebound food delivery program for Metropolitan Ministries.
Jeff Gigante, 52, is a restaurateur who owns Forbici Modern Italian. A city resident for 24 years, he currently lives in South Tampa. He serves as chairman of Advent Health Carrollwood and is a member of boards of the CEO Council and the Bullard Family Foundation, among others.
Larry Bruce Hordge Sr., 67, worked at the St. Petersburg Police Department and retired as a sergeant after 28 years. A lifelong Tampa resident, Hordge noted he has experience in community policing and is also an ordained minister. He lives in West Tampa.
Angela Judge, 58, is a lifelong Tampa resident and works as a proposal writer for MHK, a health care technology company. She was an active member of the Tampa Bay chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women from 1996 to 2014 and currently volunteers as a consultant for Novous Vitae, a nonprofit organization that aims to “drive academic achievement and economic empowerment” in Sulphur Springs. She lives in an East Tampa home that has been in her family for 54 years.
“I believe we are simply a disjointed community where some people live in fear of the very people who commit their lives, their careers to ’protect and serve’ them,” Judge wrote in her application. “I would like to serve on this committee to help bridge that gap.”
Jerry Mason, 53, is a senior vice president for Pilot Bank and has lived in Tampa for 45 years, 18 in public housing in Robles Park. He previously served as chairman of the nonprofit Tampa Family Health Centers and on the board of Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay. He lives in New Tampa.
“I would like to assist the chief in spreading the message of change but also delivering a message to all residents that we’re in this together,” he wrote. “It starts with trust, home ownership, and feeling as if you’re important no matter who you are and I provide that level of experience.”
Paul Suppicich, 59, is an immigration attorney for a Tampa law firm. Suppicich has lived in Tampa for more than 30 years. He has been an attorney for 15 years. Prior to law school, he was a professional educator who worked in Latin America and the United States. He’s a board member for Tampa-Hillsborough Friends of the Library Council and the Hillsborough Literacy Council.
Lincoln Jesus Tamayo, 59, is chief operating officer of the Lakeland-based Academy Prep Foundation, serves as head of school at Academy Prep Lakeland and is the former head of school for Academy Prep Tampa. Both are private middle schools for students who qualify for need-based scholarships. A Tampa resident for 37 years, Tamayo is also a member of Tampa’s Citizen Review Board.
Edelyn Verona, 47, is a psychologist and professor at the University of South Florida who has lived in Tampa for about six years. Verona has expertise in the areas of violence prevention and mental health, and has provided services to a state prison and county jail in Florida and juvenile detention centers in Illinois. She is currently working with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office on a program to reduce recidivism.
Verona has served on Hillsborough County’s Diversity Advisory Board as its Caribbean member and on Safe & Sound Hillsborough’s youth gun violence committee.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include the correct current job titles for Lincoln Tamayo.
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Coverage of local and national protests from the Tampa Bay Times
WHAT PROTESTERS WANT: Protesters explain what changes would make them feel like the movement is successful.
WHAT ARE NON-LETHAL AND LESS-LETHAL WEAPONS? A guide to what’s used in local and national protests.
WHAT ARE ARRESTED PROTESTERS CHARGED WITH? About half the charges filed have included unlawful assembly.
CAN YOU BE FIRED FOR PROTESTING? In Florida, you can. Learn more.
HEADING TO A PROTEST? How to protect eyes from teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.