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Tallahassee City Commission Overhauls Citizens Police Review Board

A police officer seen from behind, wearing blue with "police" written in white block letters across his back
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The Tallahassee Police Department will not be working so closely with the Citizens Police Review Board anymore

The Tallahassee City Commission has voted to overhaul the Citizens Police Review Board, following a controversy about the writing on a cup used by one of the review board members.

The police review board was established by the city two years ago. Its purpose was to, quote, “foster transparency, enhance communication and ensure a relationship of trust and respect between the Tallahassee Police Department and the community.” It offers suggestions that TPD Chief Lawrence Revell can accept or reject.

Now the city commission is taking what Mayor John Dailey calls a “hard pause” to reconsider the review board’s membership and mission.

“In the past couple of weeks, I have had three of the four appointed officials -- the city manager, the city attorney and the inspector general who actually staffs this body -- come to my office with concerns, formal concerns, specifically, about the direction and scope and the mission creep of the police review board," Dailey said. 

The tipping point was the phrase “abolish the police” on board member Taylor Biro’s cup. The local Police Benevolent Association called for her removal. Then the review board issued a press release offering its unanimous support for Biro.

But Mayor Pro Tem Dianne Williams-Cox proposed removing Biro. She also proposed altering the review board’s structure to add two outside groups to tap members. She said the review board had overreached.

“And based on the issue of those two unauthorized press releases, I feel as though the board has gone away from its mission and has been distracted,” she said.

Former Leon County Commission candidate Will Crowley, who spoke during the comment period, alluded to the fact that in the recent election, both Dailey and Williams-Cox had received endorsements and donations from the Police Benevolent Association.

“Is it biased to have concerns about how the police department functions historically and presently, and what should be done about it?" Crowley asked. "Is it biased to take money from the police union as a candidate for office or a sitting commissioner? Do those things influence the way you approach policy?   

By a 3-2 vote, Dailey, Williams-Cox and Commissioner Curtis Richardson prevailed. The commission removed Biro. Review board members Edward Gaines and Barry Munroe, whose terms were up but who wished to stay, were not reappointed.

Commissioner Jeremy Matlow warned against what he called a dangerous precedent.

“We have to have that line of communication open, which was the whole point -- or part of the point -- of the creation of this board. By single-handedly wiping out half the board because of a difference of opinion, I think this board will lose all credibility,” he said.  

Dailey’s appointee on the review board, Patrick O’Bryant, resigned following the meeting. City Attorney Cassandra Jackson will evaluate the policies and procedures of the review board for revision.

Follow @MargieMenzel

Margie Menzel covers local and state government for WFSU News. She has also worked at the News Service of Florida and Gannett News Service. She earned her B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University and her M.S. in journalism at Florida A&M University.