When a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd on Might 25, the response in Tampa Bay was the identical because it was throughout the nation: Folks took to the streets.
The Black Lives Matter motion was on the forefront of the months of protests towards racial injustice and police brutality that adopted throughout the nation. Demonstrators marched and chanted and blocked site visitors. They demanded police reforms, and the reallocation of police funds to deal with such ills as poverty, homelessness, dependancy and psychological well being.
So what modified in Tampa Bay within the wake of the 2020 protests? Seems, fairly a bit.
No police companies had been defunded. However bay space legislation enforcement leaders instituted a number of reforms. 4 of Pinellas County’s largest police companies determined to equip officers with body-worn cameras. The best way companies examine their very own officers for utilizing power modified. So did the way in which some companies will deal with somebody’s psychological well being disaster.
The newest disagreement between protesters and police leaders is over who will get credit score. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, for instance, acknowledged the protests helped drive the dialog about reforms — however insisted his reforms had been already within the works.
“So is the data from the group and the dialogue and the issues which are being introduced ahead elements and are they influencing choices? Completely,” he stated. “However that’s totally different from the protesters who’re wreaking havoc in some locations, like taking up intersections. That doesn’t work for me.”
To St. Petersburg activist Jabaar Edmond, that’s denying the plain.
“The truth is everyone knows marching up and down the streets of St. Pete for 100-plus days needed to have an impact,” he stated. “That’s what makes the wheels of justice flip.”
Right here’s what did change in 2020, what didn’t, and what reforms police leaders are considering in 2021:
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Clearwater Police Division
THE PROTESTS: Clearwater’s protests and rallies had been probably the most calm in Tampa Bay. About 200 individuals listened to audio system and music and held up home made indicators at a June 5 rally at Coachman Park. Three days later, Elijah McGill led about 200 marchers by means of North Greenwood. Then the town supervisor, police chief, two council members and the sheriff listened to the speeches that adopted. Clearwater police Chief Dan Slaughter additionally publicly condemned the demise of Floyd.
WHAT CHANGED: In July, the Metropolis Council debated whether or not to problem body-worn cameras to officers. Whereas some council members consider they weren’t wanted due to the police division’s historical past of conduct and group engagement, others believed the time had come. So did the general public. “I’m very proud to name Chief Slaughter our police chief, nonetheless Chief Slaughter can’t be all over the place on a regular basis,” resident Eleanor Breland stated. “One life is price greater than what it’s going to value to have the cameras.” Council voted to undertake the know-how on Aug. 6, and the company expects or not it’s up and working this month.
Clearwater additionally joined Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Investigative Task Force, a consortium of native police companies that can band collectively to analyze when officers use lethal power within the county.
WHAT DIDN’T: No different insurance policies had been modified, and the police division price range was not affected.
WHAT’S NEXT: In February, Clearwater officers shall be among the many first within the nation to endure the “Energetic Bystandership for Regulation Enforcement’’ coaching program supplied by the Georgetown Progressive Policing Program. Whereas native police companies this yr emphasised their “responsibility to intervene” insurance policies — requiring officers to intervene when fellow officers use extreme power or interact in misconduct — the brand new program teaches officers easy methods to verbally and bodily intervene.
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Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Workplace
THE PROTESTS: The Sheriff’s Workplace had far fewer protests in its jurisdiction than Tampa police did and fewer interactions with protesters — and thus acquired much less consideration and criticism. Deputies responded to the Might 30 unrest within the College space, the place rioters threw gadgets and shot fireworks at legislation enforcement whereas setting a constructing on hearth. The Sheriff’s Workplace additionally responded to protests in Plant Metropolis and Riverview a couple of days later. However these had been uneventful.
WHAT CHANGED: Sheriff Chad Chronister introduced in June that his company would not examine its personal deputies who hearth their weapons. Now the Florida Division of Regulation Enforcement investigates Hillsborough deputies in capturing incidents, or when somebody dies of their custody.
When the protests began, Chronister had already determined to equip his deputies with physique cameras. However he stated the protests had been a think about his resolution to undertake a system that records nearly every interaction a deputy has with the public. The Sheriff’s Workplace started outfitting 1,000 deputies in August and Chronister stated in an e mail to the Tampa Bay Occasions that the know-how already has “confirmed to be an ideal asset to our workplace by permitting us to indicate the totality of use of power incidents and the nice lengths deputies undergo to keep away from the usage of power.”
This summer time, sheriff’s personnel underwent coaching to bolster a coverage requiring deputies who witness an act of misconduct, reminiscent of extreme power, report the incident.
In October, Chronister unveiled the brand new Behavioral Well being Unit, which can join individuals to providers reminiscent of dependancy counseling and psychological well being therapy earlier than they develop into a legislation enforcement downside.
WHAT DIDN’T: The sheriff’s price range remained regular. The Hillsborough County Fee really accepted a bigger price range, partly to cowl the $14 million, five-year body-camera contract.
WHAT’S NEXT: The sheriff didn’t lay out any particular coverage targets for 2021. “My objective subsequent yr, and yearly that I function Sheriff, is to verify each citizen is handled with respect and each encounter my deputies have with residents is dealt with appropriately, with an emphasis on de-escalation above all else,” he stated.
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Pasco County Sheriff’s Workplace / New Port Richey Police Division
THE PROTESTS: Demonstrations in Pasco County passed off much less often and didn’t draw the sort of crowds or media consideration that St. Petersburg and Tampa did. Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco met with group leaders however by no means publicly mentioned the assembly. In July, protest chief Marlowe Jones organized a hearse-led caravan through the Meadow Pointe community in Wesley Chapel in reminiscence of late Civil Rights legend and Congressman John Lewis.
However when protests moved to downtown New Port Richey, tensions with metropolis police grew. Protesters accused officers of targeting them for arrest. Jones has challenged the circumstances of his July 31 arrest after somebody attacked a protester. New Port Richey began issuing hundreds in fines as a result of protesters used a megaphone downtown. All these complaints had been initiated by officers, not residents. However police officers deny concentrating on protesters.
WHAT CHANGED: In July, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Workplace introduced it could ask the Florida Division of Regulation Enforcement to take over investigating incidents the place deputies hearth their weapons.
The New Port Richey Metropolis Council in September approved purchasing body and vehicle cameras for the police force. After a yr of research, Mayor Rob Marlowe known as it “a crucial merchandise” within the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the protests that adopted.
“There’s a possibility and an consciousness that now’s a extremely good time to take a tough look within the mirror on how we work together with the general public,” New Port Richey police Chief Kim Bogart stated. He additionally targeted on de-escalation strategies and strengthened a coverage the place officers should intervene after they see fellow officers use extreme power.
WHAT DIDN’T CHANGE: The Pasco County Sheriff’s Workplace didn’t record any coverage adjustments when requested by the Occasions, however famous it has been utilizing physique cameras since 2015. The company additionally has a workforce that connects these in want with applications that deal with psychological well being, drug dependancy and homelessness.
WHAT’S NEXT: Black Lives Matter Pasco County continues to carry protests in downtown New Port Richey. Bogart stated he’ll watch to see how different cities use social staff to deal with low-level calls as an alternative of officers.
“It’s going to need to contain dialogue, open-minded discussions,” he stated. “I preserve telling my officers, within the subsequent two to a few years, you will note that our occupation has modified.”
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Pinellas County Sheriff’s Workplace
THE PROTESTS: Pinellas deputies primarily backed up St. Petersburg officers dealing with protests in that metropolis. However Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, one of the vital outstanding legislation enforcement leaders within the nation, nonetheless discovered methods to make headlines.
The sheriff requested the Pinellas-Pasco chief choose in June to order that protesters arrested within the early days of the protests be held in a single day with out bail, even when the fees didn’t warrant that. The chief choose agreed — but backtracked when the American Civil Liberties Union and others criticized the apply.
The sheriff known as out the Tampa Bay Rays in July after the workforce’s official Twitter account known as for the arrests of the Louisville cops who killed Breonna Taylor in her condo on March 13 whereas executing a no-knock warrant. Gualtieri called the Rays’ tweet “simply improper” and “reckless.” Louisville officers have since banned no-knock warrants, paid a $12 million settlement to her household and lately knowledgeable two officers concerned in her demise that they might be fired.
WHAT CHANGED: The sheriff applied important adjustments however stated the summer time of protests had little to do together with his choices. Gualitieri, who had lengthy resisted physique cameras, advised the Occasions in August he was exploring the idea. He’ll quickly ask the Pinellas County Commission to fund the $3 million program and expects his 800 deputies to be geared up by March.
Gualitieri additionally spearheaded forming the Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Investigative Task Drive. Earlier than, every legislation enforcement company investigated their very own officers in instances the place they fired their weapons or used power. Now that job falls to the duty power whereas the officer’s company is faraway from the method, which the sheriff stated eliminates potential conflicts of curiosity. “It’s time to alter,” Gualtieri advised the Occasions.
A number of weeks later, Gualtieri introduced the enlargement of his psychological well being unit from two to 6 deputy-social employee groups.
WHAT DIDN’T: The Sheriff’s Workplace was not defunded. In actual fact, the roughly $328 million price range was 4 p.c larger than the earlier yr.
WHAT’S NEXT: Gualtieri stated the protests confirmed him that he and his company must do a greater job speaking with the group. He plans to begin publishing an annual report with data together with crime and use-of-force statistics and new applications.
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St. Petersburg Police Division
THE PROTESTS: Demonstrations had been constant and peaceable as protesters marched for greater than 100 days after Floyd’s demise. Essentially the most sustained tensions had been on the first gatherings exterior police headquarters, when dozens had been arrested for failing to disperse. A lot of the fees had been dropped.
In different incidents, a counter-protester pulled a handgun on marchers, there have been arrests exterior the mayor’s dwelling and a few tense encounters with drivers. However a lot of the marches had been uneventful, and lots of ended with dance events exterior Metropolis Corridor.
Demonstrators demanded a 30 p.c reduce within the police price range and that psychological well being, home abuse and drug overdose calls be dealt with by non-law enforcement specialists.
WHAT CHANGED: In July, the town introduced a brand new workforce of social staff would reply to experiences of drug overdoses, psychological well being crises, homelessness and truancy as an alternative of officers. Police chief Anthony Holloway denied, although, that the brand new Group Help Liaison program was created in response to protester calls for. “We realized that we’re a really younger police division, and we want professionals to take care of among the issues we’re coping with,” he stated.
Days later, the police division joined the Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Investigative Task Force.
Essentially the most important change got here in October, when the Metropolis Council accepted spending practically $7 million to equip cops and automobiles with cameras. Holloway spent six years finding out the thought, and introduced in February 2020 that he now supported the thought — months earlier than the protests began. The rollout started in December.
WHAT DIDN’T: No police funds had been re-allocated to social providers. The Metropolis Council accepted a $117 million police price range for the brand new fiscal yr, an increase of practically 1 p.c from the earlier price range.
WHAT’S NEXT: Some group members had been dismayed when the Group Help Liaison program wasn’t working by October. It’s now slated to begin early this yr. The rollout of physique cameras shall be completed in weeks and car cameras ought to be absolutely put in by the tip of 2021.
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Tampa Police Division
THE PROTESTS: Tampa was the epicenter for probably the most intense encounters between protesters and police within the bay space. Might 30 noticed rioting, looting and vandalism in the University area. What adopted had been months of peaceable, however periodically tense and chaotic incidents. Protesters and activists accused Tampa police of being too fast to arrest individuals and use pointless power reminiscent of chemical brokers and rubber bullets.
Tampa protesters confronted probably the most hazard from drivers. Protest chief Jae Passmore was hit by a pickup truck driver on June 21 however prosecutors didn’t file charges as a result of they may not definitively determine the motive force. A driver who went by means of protesters blocking a street on June 27 ended up dashing away with protester Jason Flores clinging to the hood. Police arrested Flores, not the motive force, but the charges were dropped. Police arrested protesters blocking N Dale Mabry Freeway on the Fourth of July — and later arrested a 21-year-old driver accused of driving through them.
Police Chief Brian Dugan turned a lightning rod of criticism and activists repeatedly called for him to be fired. Dugan stated he helps the Black Lives Matter motion however defended his officers. Hillsborough State Lawyer Andrew Warren dropped many charges against protesters arrested for illegal meeting, saying his workplace would make a “clear distinction” between peaceable protesters and those that incite violence. The chief criticized his resolution, saying the courts should decide. “The police, we always have everybody’s back and nobody has our back,” he advised the media in June.
WHAT CHANGED: Mayor Jane Castor, a former police chief, created a Task Force on Community Policing. She and Dugan introduced two fast adjustments: codifying that officers should search the approval of the chief and a choose to make use of a no-knock warrant and reassigning 40 officers to neighborhood districts. The chief additionally had the Florida Division of Regulation Enforcement take over investigating fatal police shootings and in-custody deaths.
This yr Tampa police accomplished equipping officers with physique cameras. And the division lately employed an out of doors coaching firm to carry classes on variety, group engagement and consciousness. Dugan stated extra coaching on honest and neutral policing is ready for 2021.
WHAT DIDN’T: Activists have known as the town’s Citizen Assessment Board, which offers oversight to the police division, toothless and ineffective. They need the Metropolis Council to take management of appointments from the mayor they usually need the board to be given subpoena energy and unbiased investigators. Castor put ahead her personal proposal that features none of these adjustments. The mayor additionally rejected calls to cut the police budget and supported Dugan all year long.
WHAT’S NEXT: The combat over the Citizen Assessment Board will seemingly proceed. A workshop on Castor’s proposed changes is ready for Feb. 25.
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