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Mayor's Review Board Faces Questions

Sep 24, 2015

Mike Phenegar speaks to the press about his thoughts on the mayor's citizen's review board. Andrew Joseph (L) holds a painted portrait of his son, who he says died due to negligence by law enforcement.
Credit Quincy J. Walters / WUSF News

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Tampa Police Department for issuing thousands of tickets to bicyclists for minor infractions. About 80 percent of those cited are black. 

In response, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn created a citizen's review board to determine if incidents involving the police department were handled justly.

But some people are not satisfied with the mayor's approach. 

Community activists - who call themselves Tampa for Justice - issued their complaints outside of City Hall, just around the corner from Tampa Police Department Headquarters. 

Mike Phenegar, a member of the American Civil Liberties Union's Tampa chapter, said the group wants city council members to have more say in who serves on the review board. Right now, Buckhorn will appoint nine of the 11 members. 

"I think the mayor has made a tragic error here in trying to usurp the authority of the city council," Pheneger said. "He tried to satisfy what the people said they wanted, without ever listening to what they said."

The group also wants the review board to have the ability to conduct their own investigations of police conduct. 

Andrew Joseph also spoke outside of City Hall. He's the father of a 14-year-old who died last year while crossing a highway outside of the Florida State Fair. Joseph said Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies were wrong in the way they handled the incident, which involved 100 teens being ejected from the fair after a fight. 

He said a citizen's board should be able to keep an independent eye on law enforcement. 

"It should be of the citizens, by the citizens - in all colors, in all shades, in all forms and fashions," he said. "We're tired of the police policing themselves. It doesn't work for Tampa and it doesn't work for America."

So far, about 70 Tampa residents have applied for the citizen's review board. Buckhorn hopes to have the group formed by the end of the year.