top of page

Why we need CPAC in Tallahassee

Updated: Jan 4


What is CPAC?


CPAC is a Civilian Police Accountability Council. It would be a council of democratically elected officials throughout Tallahassee that would have the power 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, etc.;


  • Negotiate the TPD union contract, except where current provisions within HB1 excludes it;


  • Coordinate with the Tallahassee City Commission for TPD budget oversight.


In order to ensure democracy and fairness, the elections would look something like this:


  • Membership elected directly by the voters, similar to the Leon County School Board, with one member from each of the police districts within Tallahassee;


  • Restrictions on 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.


What’s the difference between CPAC and the CPRB?


The CPRB, according to tallahassee.granicus.com, was created to “foster transparency, enhance communication, and ensure a relationship of trust and respect between the Tallahassee Police Department and the community.” CPAC’s goal is different. CPAC intends to put power over the police in the hands of citizens.


 We believe the problem is not that police and public communities do not have “faith” in each other or a relationship with each other, but that police in our city and across our country have a unique position in aiding and abetting corruption and exploitation. Unlike other sectors of our city, police have the jurisdiction to avoid nearly any outside accountability from non-officers other than the City Manager and the Mayor.


 There is no way for public citizens to have real, democratic referendums when it comes to police power. The use of Marsy’s law to protect the identities of the officers responsible for the killings of Raheem Reeder and Tony Mcdade are a great example of this. In Florida, the centralization of power into the hands of the governor and the Republican Party exacerbates this lack of accountability given their open and unprincipled support of police departments around the nation. 


The only way to combat this dangerous and gross autocracy for corporations and the corrupt is to put more power into the hands of working-class citizens and grassroots organizations. The real differences within CPAC and the CPRB are:


  • CPAC would hold real power to be able to enforce its own rules. It wouldn’t have to defer to the City Manager or Police Chief and ask for their permission to enforce its policies.

  • The rules related to pending internal investigations would be radically different and far more in favor of real transparency(real investigations outside of police jurisdiction, power to reveal information such as the names of officers who kill civilians, power to call a special session to address police violence).

  • CPAC would be a council of elected civilians(undocumented people could serve on the council). Although a position might be appointed, for the most part the voting would be done within local communities. 

  • CPAC would create lower bodies that wouldn’t have direct voting power, but could offer recommendations to the board. These local councils could discuss police violence and terror in their communities and would be a place to learn about the history of policing. 

  • There would be other requirements for CPAC for those elected. Most of the elected would need real community organizing experience or experience in clinical/social/psychological work. A few seats would not adhere to these requirements to make sure ordinary people without organizing/social work experience could get a say on the council.

  • We believe the CPRB acts as a vehicle to protect police interests. Instead of improving community trust, it worsens it through performativity and surface level change. CPAC would be a fundamental change to the structure of policing in the U.S. and put power back in the hands of the people. 




Sources:




History of CPAC 


CPAC is an idea with origins as early as before the Civil War. The Tallahassee Police Department, which is also one of the oldest police departments in the South, was organized originally as a Night Watch. The Monticello Jefferson states that “In 1841, Francis became intendant (mayor) of Tallahassee and served in the office for four consecutive one-year terms. (He also served as intendant in 1856, 1857, and 1866.) Francis and the town council set about combating crime in the community. They passed ordinances to establish peace and civility and organized a night watch to patrol the streets and enforce the laws. They also set fines and jail sentences to punish violators of the laws”(The Jefferson Monticello).


This explanation of the police leaves a lot to be desired. In reality, Eppes- who was the owner of the L’eau Noir(Black Water) plantation, created the night watch as a way to police and terrorize slaves. During the 1840’s there was a massive public moral panic about the potential of slave rebellions due to the rise in abolitionist sentiment in the North. Slaveowners across the South responded by increasing the number of slave patrols as well as censoring information from the North about abolition.


The Tallahassee Police Department came into existence out of a slave patrol, and the city was even run by Eppes as a mayor starting in 1841. Already enshrined in law and practice was the ideology and mentality of criminalizing and controlling black people- free and enslaved. Then the Civil War came, and black people experienced their first real taste of democracy during Reconstruction. 


All across the United States black people were finally represented in local and sometimes even state politics, with black representatives as well as Congressman having a local say in their communities. The first black sheriff in Tallahassee was elected during Reconstruction, and there wasn’t another one until 2016, when Walt McNeil was elected. Even in 2021, there are areas in the country where there was more black representation during Reconstruction.


Despite these gains, Reconstruction did not stop Jim Crow laws, vagrancy laws, and organized intimidation and violence from keeping black people in their place. Through the prison system large numbers of African Americans were again enslaved and through terror groups like the Ku Klux Klan and others, the threat of social rebellion was staved off. After the election of Rutherford B. Hayes, Union troops left the South, allowing for the remnants of the plantation class of owners to reassert their power and dominance over black civilians.


All this is needed to understand the history of CPAC. Black people have only had a taste of democracy in the U.S., and never any real substance. During and after Jim Crow, black communities have never had control or even a fair review over their interactions with the police. The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and other anti-black and anti-people policies have prevented real equity from being established. This has created an imbalance and antagonistic relationship between the police and the people. Only CPAC can solve that.


Community Control of the Police itself was created by the Black Panther Party in the 1970’s. This idea was again adopted by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression(NAARPR). NAARPR was originally formed as the Free Angela Davis Committee, and was re-founded in 2019. Several members of TCAC attended this NAARPR conference and a second one in 2021. Organizations all across the United States pledged to fight for Community Control of the Police and get CPAC instituted into their communities.


The Tallahassee Community Action Committee is not the first to adopt the banner of CPAC around the nation and certainly not the organization to formulate the idea for it. We are simply following the example of some of the most dedicated and successful activists in the United States. In Chicago, the Chicago Alliance against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) and the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability(GAPA) have united against Mayor Lori Lightfoot to pass legislation for ECPS(Empowering Communities for Public Safety). This ordinance, while not enacting the full legislation of CPAC, is the closest thing to police oversight in the entire country. The ordinance language can be found here: Chicago Ordinance


Sources:

























Evidence of Police Abuse & Misconduct in Tallahassee



















16 views0 comments
bottom of page