TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – An overflow crowd waited outside the Tampa Convention Center while inside the public comment on police reform lasted for hours at the first Citizen Review Board meeting since January because of the pandemic.
“These tensions are rising,” protester Emadi Okwuosa, 22, told the CRB. “People are upset. Every day that goes by is somebody’s life that could be lost.”
Many speakers were upset that Mayor Jane Castor wasn’t at the meeting, but 8 On Your Side learned she was never scheduled to attend.
Throughout the meeting, there were demands for change and calls for defunding police.
“There does need to be a tangible progress made toward defunding the police and reallocating those funds to programs such as education, public housing,” Getulio Gonzalez-Mulattieri told 8 On Your Side after his turn during the public comment.
Ellis Richards, 41, said the police reforms he wants to see are higher standards and education requirements to join the force.
“Police officers, doctors and pilots, they all have thousands of lives in the balance every day,” he said. “Two of those jobs requires a high education.”
The majority of the younger speakers have marched through the streets in recent weeks protesting racial injustice and police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Tampa police have said they only acted when the demonstrators became violent and didn’t disperse, but the protesters raised concerns about the use of excessive force.
“I brought up to Jane Castor how we were teargassed, I brought up to Jane Castor how we are being shot rubber bullets,” Okwuosa said of his recent meeting with the mayor.
After several calls for Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan to be fired or step down, he responded by saying he will seek feedback from citizens of the city on how to fix problems and move forward.
“We are making a variety of changes to our policies and some of this stuff is ongoing and its not going to happen overnight,” Chief Dugan said.
An original member of the CRB formed nearly five years ago, Carolyn Collins said she has never seen a turnout like on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got to change culture within the police department across the country and they want change,” she said of her biggest takeaway from the meeting, “they’ve got to be respected but they’ve got to learn to respect others as well.”
Collins told 8 On Your Side the CRB will put together the agenda for its next meeting in July based on the many comments during this meeting.
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