Open Letter to Tallahassee City Commission in support of a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC)

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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.

Sincerely,

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

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