Open Letter to Tallahassee City Commission in Support of a Civilian Police Accountability Council
Mayor John Dailey Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox Commissioner Curtis Richardson Commissioner Jeremy Matlow Commissioner Elaine Bryant
June 16, 2020
Dear Mayor and Commissioners:
We are an alliance of organizations, faith groups, businesses, and community leaders from across Tallahassee. As an alliance we have marched in the streets, met with you personally, held town halls, given speeches, and hosted press conferences on the issue of police violence, racial profiling, and police brutality in Tallahassee. We are fired up and angry about conversations around police accountability in Tallahassee that go nowhere. We have engaged in too many “listening sessions” where the problem of police violence, racial profiling, and police brutality are a focus but no sustainable policy changes are made to correct the problem.
There is no denying that a problem exists.
We saw it six years ago when Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) Officer Terry Mahan tasered 61 year old Viola Young in the back. We saw it again in 2014 and 2016 when Tallahassee Police Department was exposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Human Rights and Privacy, and USA Today for racial profiling through phone trackers called “Stingray” operations used mostly on Black Southside community members. And, we are seeing it again in the brutal murder of Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade by TPD Officers this year.
As a collective we are writing to ask you to make long-term transformational change in Tallahassee. This is a critical moment in the nation’s history. Tallahassee has a chance to emerge as a leader promoting police accountability to defend black lives, end racial profiling, and establish democratically elected communtiy control and oversight of the police. In order to determine what is actually happening in police-civilian encounters, to be confident that police wrongdoing is not being hidden, to evaluate police department management, to accumulate the facts needed for effective reform, and to maintain democratic control over law enforcement, we need review of police behavior by an agency that is independent of TPD, and of TPD’s employer, the city manager and the city commission. We believe that a democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) can do all this and differs from the proposed “TPD Citizens Review Board” currently under review. We are asking you to put forward a motion to create a democratically elected Tallahassee Civilian Police Accountability Council that does the following:
Elects its members directly by the voters, similar to the Leon County School Board, with one member from each of the police districts within Tallahassee;
Restricts these elected members from receiving campaign funds from anyone outside of their district;
All candidates must be free of attachment to law enforcement and Tallahassee city government and must sign a conflict of interest form stating they have no former, or current, attachment to law enforcement, law enforcement unions, the Police Benevolent Association and/or City of Tallahassee government.
We have drafted an ordinance that would give this democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council the authority to:
Hire and dismiss the Tallahassee Police Department Chief of Police;
Write and determine TPD policy and maintain final authority over TPD policy;
Have the power to compel testimony and witnesses, except where current provisions in the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights excludes it;
Have the power to examine, and act, concerning all claims of police misconduct including, but not exclusive to, inappropriate use of force;
Negotiate the TPD union contract;
Coordinate with the Tallahassee City Commission for TPD budget oversight.
We have reviewed the proposal that city staff has prepared for the city commission’s June 17, 2020 meeting. We find that this proposal fails to adequately address the problem or the need. The Citizens Review Board that staff has proposed has neither the independence nor the power to do what needs to be done.
We call on the city commissioners and the mayor to adopt an ordinance that includes the elements we have described and stand-up against the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights which was put in place in 1974 to maintain Jim Crow era systems of power. Only this way will the new entity be able to make the public, especially Tallahassee’s traditionally underserved, low-income and/or Black community members, feel confident that police misconduct will not be hidden, and guarantee that patterns of police brutality and racial profiling will be exposed.
We are pleased that Tallahassee City Commission is listening to the outpouring of concern by community members and has made clear its commitment to addressing this issue. We ask you to complete what you have started in a way that will make sustainable change in our community and allow our city to emerge as a leader in the nation during these troubled times. We trust you will continue to make us proud of our city and of our city government.
Regina Joseph, President of Tallahassee Community Action Committee Trish Brown, Founder/President, Power Up People! Haley Gentile, Community Member Lauren Brenzel, Statewide Organizing Director, Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida Delilah Pierre, Communications Director, Tallahassee Community Action Committee Karen Woodall, Executive Director, Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Opportunity and Florida People’s Advocacy Center Robert Lee, Member, Tallahassee Community Action Committee Isabela Casanova, FSU Student, Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society Isadora Spagler, Community Member Kathryn Lane, Co-Founder, Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation Linda Miklowitz, Chair, National Council of Jewish Women Tallahassee Action Susan Petty, Co-owner and Chef, The Bark Laura McTighe, The Sunday Collective and Queer Tallahassee Sampson Reichard, Owner & Director, The Halfway Point Lakey Love, MA, MAIS, Director LGBTQIA+ Task Force, Florida National Organization for Women Dr. Michael Nair-Collins, Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences & Social Medicine, Florida State University College of Medicine Food Not Bombs Hannah Schwadron, Member, The Sunday Collective Alexandra “Xan” C.h. Nowakowski, Ph.D, MPH, Assistant Professor, FSU College of Medicine Buddy Austin, Food Not Bombs Kyle Rose, Food Not Bombs Malia Brujer, Member, The Sunday Collective Gary Griffith, MSW Student, FSU College of Social Work Mx. Callia Blake, Member, Queer Tallahassee Matilda Parker, Vice Chair, Tallahassee Democratic Socialists of America Katie Logue, Co-Owner, Tally Cat Cafe Courtney Kendrick Co-Owner, Tally Cat Cafe Paul M. Renfro, Assistant Professor of History, Florida State University Elizabeth Georges, Vice President, Native Nurseries of Tallahassee Shaw Patton, Co-owner, The Bark Jordan W. Scott, President, Florida Future Labor Leaders Wisnerson Benoit, Community Member Tracey Fletcher, Member, Queer Tallahassee William Earnest, Community Member Ms. Christine Reilly, Humanists of Tallahassee and League of Women Voters Leslie M. Beitsche, MD, JD, Community Member David O. Akintonde, Regional Director, For Our Future Barbara Devane, Vice President, Tallahassee National Organization for Women Ivanna Pengelley, Community Member Reo Morris, Community Member Fiona Borger, Community Member Sara Green, Community Member Dr. Nicole Ennic, Associate Professor, FSU College of Medicine Scott Pickett, Associate Professor, Florida State University Laeticia Hollant, Community Member Justin Tyler Hover, Community Member Robin Callahan, Community Member Sylvie Naar, Professor, FSU College of Medicine Dr. Samatha Goldfarb, Community Member Michael L, Nichols, Community Member Angelina Sutin, Community Member Susan Epsetin, Community Member Carolyn R. Blue, K. Scholar Program Coordinator, FSU/CoM – Council on Diversity and Inclusion Jeffrey Harman, Community Member Pascal Jean Pierre, Associate Professor, Director, CNTRL, FSU College of Medicine Dr. Brian Johnson, Clinical Research Director, Bond Community Health Center Edwine Jean-Pierre, Community Member Martin Wood, Librarian and Community Member for Over 16 Years Illana Goldman, The Sunday Collective Charissa Obeng-Nyarko, Community Member Rebekka Sheetz, MSW, Community Member Savannah Calleson, Community Member Malika Parchment, Community Member Barbara Pierre Louis, Medical Student, FSU College of Medicine Richardson Laurent, Health Informatics and Information Management Student, FAMU John Sheetz, Trainer, FSU College of Medicine