Progress but no deal yet on Tampa’s police review board

Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa City Council Chairman Frank Reddick said Friday they are closer to ending a dispute over a new police review board but haven’t agreed on a compromise yet.

The two met Friday in Buckhorn’s office to discuss how many members of the new 11-member board each side will appoint. The board is intended to provide civilian oversight of the Tampa Police Department and review internal affairs cases, police pursuits and police policies.

“We had open dialogue — put everything on the table,” Reddick said. “We just couldn’t reach that compromise on where we should go.”

Still, Buckhorn said he is considering giving the council more appointments to settle the contentious dispute.

“The chairman and I will be talking over the next couple of days and bouncing some ideas off each other,” Buckhorn said. “We’re both committed to doing this with the least amount of drama.”

Buckhorn originally gave the seven-member council two picks when he created the board through an executive order on Aug. 28, a move that drew fierce criticism from Reddick. The mayor then announced last week he was willing to let the council appoint one additional member of the board and also one alternate, giving the council four appointments overall.

“There may be some modification of that over the next week to try to get to that ‘yes,’ ” Buckhorn said.

One solution Buckhorn hinted at Friday would be to give one pick to each of the four council members who represent single-member districts. That would ensure every part of the city has representation, Buckhorn said.

Both men described the meeting as good-natured, with Buckhorn giving Reddick a baseball and some pitching advice ahead of Reddick throwing the first pitch at the Tampa Bay Rays game Friday.

The council began pushing for a police review board in July in reaction to incidents nationwide where police officers fatally shot unarmed black males and to an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice probe into the ticketing of black bicyclists by Tampa police.

Local groups, including the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, want the review board to have the authority to conduct its own investigations and to have subpoena power.

Buckhorn said that is prohibited by state law and that the majority of review boards across the country function without subpoena power.

“There’s nothing I can do about that,” he said. “It’s totally outside my purview.”

A review board in Miami is one of the few in the nation that does have subpoena power. It was enshrined through a change in the city charter after initially being challenged by police unions.

Asked about subpoena power, Reddick said his first priority is to get the board up and running. He also said there is no budget for a board that has its own investigators. The Miami board has an annual budget of more than $700,000.

“We have already passed the budget,” Reddick said. “If we wanted to do subpoena power, we would have to go back and amend the budget. Is the mayor willing to do that?”

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