Tampa, FL – In late December, the Tampa Police Benevolent Association (PBA) sent out a survey to city council candidates for the upcoming municipal election asking both “Have you ever participated in a protest, whether physical, virtual, digital or online or advocated against, publicly or privately, police brutality?” and “Have you ever been a member of, donated to or supported Black Lives Matters whether financially, verbally, online or through social media?”
Community members spoke out at a recent city council meeting. Laura Rodríguez, an organizer with the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee, said, “This survey highlights what we already knew about the PBA and TPD, that their interests aren’t with the people and definitely not with Black folks. They prioritize trashing social movements while the community fights for accountability and that’s the problem.”
Activists have been demanding that the council denounce the survey, with the point that the survey doesn’t ask if candidates are affiliated with the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, or other white supremacist organizations that have become more active around the state.
The survey is the latest in a string of controversies for TPD following the resignation of former Police Chief Mary O’Connor and only highlights the growing need for more transparency and accountability of police officers in the city.
Another thing about the timing of the survey: there is an upcoming local election where granting the local Citizens Review Board independent counsel is up for the vote. Both the police union and former police chief, now mayor Jane Castor, have actively advocated against this change to the city charter. While independent counsel will not result in real accountability for the Tampa Police Department, it is an important step in building the fight for community control of police.