TAMPA — Mayor Jane Castor sang it. So did City Council Chairman Orlando Gudes.
On Thursday, it was kumbaya on police reform in Tampa.
At a ceremonial signing of a new ordinance governing the city’s Citizen Review Board, Castor said the city’s “outstanding” police department had earned the community’s trust and the 11-member volunteer advisory board appointed by the mayor and council members will be a valuable part of continuing to grow that trust.
The reform of what critics have derided as a toothless, rubber stamp board into one which has more power in the hiring process, review of policy and monitoring of resident complaints hasn’t been smooth.
Starting last summer, large and frequent street protests against the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer pushed an independent review board — with attorneys, investigators and subpoena power of its own — to the front of the City Hall agenda, amplifying ongoing reform efforts and drawing the participation of the ACLU.
A year later, after many hearings, news conferences and haggling, Castor and Gudes signed the new policy into effect.
“We all feel like it took a little longer than we would like it to,” Castor said.
Gudes was succinct: “We did it!” he told assembled reporters in the mayor’s conference room, flanked by five council members, including three — Guido Maniscalco, John Dingfelder and Bill Carlson — who voted against the measure, saying it didn’t go far enough.
The current policy doesn’t include an independent attorney. Instead, an assistant city attorney will handle the work. And the board won’t have subpoena power, as is the case in many other Florida cities, including Miami.
Gudes said those issues may be tackled by City Council down the road, but Thursday was a day to celebrate unity and compromise.
“We have to compromise sometimes for the good of the people,” Gudes said.
Castor said she compromised on the make-up of the board. Previously, she had seven appointments to four for council members. Now, the board will be split among five mayoral appointees, five council picks and a selection by the NAACP that has to be approved by the mayor and council members.
And she again praised Gudes’ leadership as she did last week when council members voted 4-3 to approve the ordinance.
Their shared past in the Tampa Police Department — Castor rose through the ranks over 33 years to finish as chief between 2009 and 2015, and Gudes is a retired officer — “gives us a unique perspective from both sides of the aisle,” Castor said. “We’ve both been out there serving our community for decades.”
She said the police department doesn’t operate “autonomously,” and praised its transparency.
“TPD is an open book,” she said.
After the event, Dingfelder said even though he felt the ordinance fell short of what is needed for citizen oversight of the police, he felt it was important to attend the mayor’s signing.
“It’s important that we do come together,” Dingfelder said, adding that the ordinance “isn’t perfect and it can always be improved down the road.”
“We got some good changes,” Dingfelder said.