|Buckhorn rolls deep y'all|
Yesterday morning I attended the Tampa city council meeting because the topic of a civilian review board was on the agenda and Chief Eric Ward was to appear and present. There was a great turn out and powerful stories and concerns shared by the community during public comment. Naturally nobody in the community was there to speak against the police being accountable to the community because, well, it's an obvious necessity.
Here is an article about the meeting.
Usually I more or less know what I want to say at city council and just kind of wing it but yesterday I felt the need to somewhat distill my thoughts into script to make sure I could say what I wanted to say within the three minute window allowed to each person for public comment.
So since I wrote it down I figured I might as well share it here as well.
"A few years ago my wife witnessed a Tampa Police Officer kick a five year old child to the concrete sidewalk right in front of our house. Every evening helicopters circle our block and have become the lullaby that plays while we try to get some rest and also TPD patrol cars regularly fly down lake ave at close to a hundred miles per hour without any sirens or lights and we all are thanking God that they have not run one of us over...yet
I have lived on lake avenue between college hill and robles park for almost a decade now and I love our neighborhood and I love our neighbors. I don't feel anxious or afraid and I don't feel like my neighborhood is threatening, and I damn sure don't ever wanna hear anyone refer to it as a "bad" neighborhood or part of town. But when I walk out of my house and see TPD on my street, I get nervous because of where I live. I don't get nervous because I am up to no good but because of who they are and what they represent in our community.
We live in an occupied zone and are an occupied people. It is not possible for us to trust them after the ways we have seen our friends and neighbors manipulated, violated and sometimes brutalized year after year.
So today people are demanding accountability and asking for a civilian review board. I stand with them.
Though I honestly believe that is too small of a demand. I don't want to review terrible things that cops have already done to neighbors who bear the image of God.
Really, we need to preview these officers.
We need to see real power and control put into the hands of the community. The community itself should be able to interview, hire and fire the police who are to patrol our neighborhoods. They should answer to the community and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their jobs, security and power is in the hands of the communities in which they are working. The community itself should be setting the perimeters and qualifications and the necessary training's to work in our communities.
Poor and black and brown communities do not need or want officers who live in another world, off in town in country somewhere patrolling their neighborhoods. I grew up in a suburb of Tampa and it is a different world. It is a privileged world where the sight of the police is a comforting presence. There the police wave, smile, and draw to mind memories of Andy Griffith. It is another world out there and folks who live in that world should not be the ones patrolling urban poor and minority communities here in this city.
Our neighborhood is considered high crime but a more honest metric would be to acknowledge that it is first a community with high rates of poverty, and that is the real crime.
Poor people are often desperate and sell things... like their bodies.
Poor people face daunting and excruciating realities and often self medicate with things like narcotics.
Poor people have plenty of struggles and challenges for survival. The last thing these communities need is military presence posing a threat to their very safety and existence.
If you patrol a black community you damn sure need to answer to the black community.
Let me just add this since all we are really just discussing this little review board, if there is a review board, it better not be filled by the mayor's or TPD's selections. The community must be the ones to decide on who we want on that board, and it will not be their yes men."
It has been clear that neither Chief Ward nor Mayor Buckhorn want to see any accountability measures put in place. (That would be breaking with longstanding traditions among Tampa's money and power)
Shortly after the Council meeting Mayor Buckhorn made a public statement assuring everyone that the final decision is his and the nothing Council does will force his hand.
The story continues...stay tuned.