Dozens Call on Tampa City Council to “Unmask the Police” and Fire Chief


More than three dozen people came to the Tampa City Council on Thursday, calling on them to abolish the Tampa Police Department and reassign the police’s funding to the black community.

What you need to know

  • Speaker call for firing police chief Brian Dugan

  • Mayor, Council accused of not holding the police liable

  • Meanwhile, there are no charges against officers in the Jonas Joseph case

Many also called for the sacking of police chief Brian Dugan, who has come under fire last month for addressing the clashes between police and protesters that took place during demonstrations against racism and police liability.

Mayor Jane Castor and the council also received biting criticism at the meeting, with citizens saying they have done nothing over the years to hold the police to account. They mentioned several controversial police shootings they said were not addressed, as well as an incident that occurred national headlines this week.

Last Thursday, a TPD officer drew his weapon and trained it for 23 minutes on 23-year-old Joneshia Wilkerson, telling her that the Nissan Altima she was driving had been reported stolen. Wilkerson was handcuffed and stopped in the back of a police car, but was eventually released without charges. Chief Dugan said that in cases of stolen vehicles, suspects may be violent and that his officer was right in drawing his weapon.

However, the TPD later published personal information about Wilkerson on their website YouTube channel (some of that information has now been removed).

City councilor Bill Carlson called the incident “worrying” and called for city workers to report back to the city council next month about privacy rules and the TPD’s use of social media regarding the disclosure of personal information.

“We have a police chief who is a liar,” said Bernice Lauredan. “I was there when he tore us up. I was there when they shot rubber bullets at us. ‘

Dugan has denied that the TPD used tear gas in one of the protests, WEDUs said Florida this week on June 12 that what the TPD has deployed is ‘more irritating’.

The call to unmask the police is a national movement that has arisen since George Floyd’s death. While some activists have said the call is real to reallocate law enforcement funding, others called for a complete abolition of the TPD at Thursday’s council.

“Not only do you all have to be racist, you have to be anti-racist,” said Sadie Dean of the Restorative Justice Coalition. Stop investing $ 6 million plus dollars in parks and recreation and put it in the black community. Don’t budget TPD over $ 120 million and invest in the black community. ‘

But Jarvis El-Amin said the council would never offend the police, and instead asked the council to “annex” the Belmont Heights area of ‚Äč‚ÄčEast Tampa and allow the community to start its own municipality.

Bishop Michele B. Patty called on the council to demolish the Fair Oaks Park Community Center in East Tampa. The facility has been called run-down by residents of the Black community, who say the city has neglected it for years. They have called on the city to build a new center. Mayor Castor has indicated that he supports the renovation of the building.

The audience was also upset that they were denied direct access to the ballroom at the Tampa Convention Center where the meeting was being held. After an hour of waiting, the crowd grew impatient, especially after being told they couldn’t bring plates to the meeting. Some citizens said the police had knocked down activist Jae Passmore, who walked on her right foot with crutches and a boot during city council and was still in pain after an incident last Sunday at Hyde Park Village. There, the driver of a pickup truck drove directly at her, resulting in concussion and injuries to her hip and right leg.

Council President Guido Maniscalco said at the end of the meeting that, out of respect for citizens, public comment should now begin at the very beginning of the meeting. The council unanimously adopted that proposal.

While all of this was happening, Hillsborough County prosecutor Warren announced that his office had concluded that there was no legal basis to file charges against any of the five Tampa police officers involved in the deadly shooting to Jonas Joseph, a 26-year-old Black citizen who allegedly pointed a gun at officers on the night of April 28.

The incident involving Joseph is one that citizens have asked about during the recent protests.