Saying all police departments need to evolve to serve their communities better, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Friday announced the creation of a task force to recommend changes in city police policy and practice.
She also announced two additional policy changes affecting how Tampa Police operates.
The announcements follow weeks of protests over police treatment of Black people, in Tampa and across the country. She said she's met for several hours with leaders from Black Lives Matter, as well as faith leaders and others in Tampa's Black community.
Castor, a former Tampa police chief, says relationships in the community are currently strained, and things need to improve.
"Now is the time for us to have uncomfortable but necessary conversations that are needed to affect meaningful change in our community," Castor said.
The task force of community members and law enforcement representatives will review the city's policies over the next month and consider issues such as the role of the city's civilian review board. She said "we're putting everything on the table."
When asked about the popular calls for defunding the police, Castor says she supports giving social service responsibilities to others, if a safety net is in place.
Simply shifting money from one budget into another could lead to dangerous situations, such as people experiencing a drug overdose or having a mental health crisis, she said.
"That's a disservice to the citizens that need our assistance regardless of what portion of government it comes from,” Castor said.
“I agree that we need to fund those social services that have been underfunded for years. The state of Florida is 51st for funding for mental health. We're behind Puerto Rico.”
Also, effective immediately, Castor said all officer-related shootings will now be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Having an independent agency look into the incidents will hold the department more accountable and be more transparent. Administrative interviews would still be done by Tampa Police, she said.
Castor also said she put into writing practices Tampa Police officers have accepted for years: a ban on the use of choke holds, and a requirement that Tampa Police officers intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force.