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City Commission Approves Deal With Police Union As Matlow Questions Use Of Force Policy Ahead Of Citizens Review Meeting

Tallahassee police car
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City Commission approves deal with Police Union as Matlow questions use of force policy ahead of citizens review meeting

The Tallahassee Commission has approved a three-year deal between the city and the Police Benevolent Association. Police officers and investigators will get a 2% pay raise in 2022 and 2023. They’ll also see a reduction in their pension contributions, some cost-of-living increases and a jump in parental leave.

The Tallahassee Police Department has been without a contract for some 10 months. City Commissioner Curtis Richardson says the collective bargaining process worked.

“You continue to go back and forth. You give some, you take some, until you arrive at a product that everyone—at least the vast majority—can agree on," he said during the commission meeting Wednesday night.

In the runup to a final deal, the police union put up billboards highlighting the county’s crime rates and warning people against sending their kids to the area’s colleges and universities. 86% of PBA voting members approved the new contract.

City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, often a critic of the department, also voiced support for the deal. However later in the meeting, Matlow expressed his concern about the department's use of force policies, after a video of a DUI arrest showed officers hitting a man on the ground with a baton.

TPD released body camera footage confirming the incident. But some of the officer-worm cameras fell off during the altercation and the police department says video of the baton use was unavailable. The city has determined the use of force was lawful and claims the man was passively resisting arrest. The available camera footage shows him grabbing an officer's vest and refusing to put his hand behind his back to be handcuffed. Matlow is suggesting a change is needed, but Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox is concerned the conversation may influence the citizens' police review board, which meets Thursday evening.

“I’ve been careful not to say anything publicly because I don’t want to get ahead of what we put in place. This is the first time, I’m aware of, that we’re actually going to them [the review board] with something like this to bring back to the community. I want them to be set up for success, without us putting our finger on the scale," Cox said.

Matlow’s comments came during Wednesday’s city commission meeting. An 8-second video of the arrest was captured by a passing motorist and posted to social media where it went viral.

The police review board meets at 5:30 Thursday evening at the Smith-Williams Center on Pasco Street.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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