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Future of Tallahassee's Citizens Police Review Board

Posted at 9:51 PM, Jan 31, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — City leaders and community stakeholders are talking about the future of the Tallahassee Citizens Police Review Board and why a board like this is needed.

"Not really autonomy and I think originally what the community wanted was a board for autonomy over the police department and that's not what it is at the moment," said Citizens Police Review Board member Malik Gary.

Frustrations rising from the Citizens Police Review Board. They feel their lack of members are keeping their hands tied in doing what they were meant to do; bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community.

This comes as the death of Tyre Nichols is at the center of additional calls for police reform. The 29-year-old was killed after he was beaten by officers in Memphis, all caught on body camera video. It's now bringing greater concerns to use of force cases involving police.

The city of Tallahassee formed a police review board in 2020 following officer involved shootings in the city. That board, recently caught in controversy and a lawsuit following the dismissal and resignations of some of its members, leaving that nine-person committee down to four.

City leaders and community stakeholders are talking about the future of the board and why a board like this one is so needed.

"I want it to get stronger, I want the politics to be removed and I want it to be what it was supposed to be for which is transparency, accountability, and like you said safety," said Mutaqee Akbar.

Abar is the President of the Tallahassee branch of NAACP. It's one of the organizations that has the power to nominate a candidate to fill one of the five open positions on the Citizens Police Review Board.

With calls for more police reform following the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Akbar said the case is another reminder of why the citizens police review board in Tallahassee is so important.

"I hope that the city officials will look at this situation, even though it's not in Tallahassee, but see reason to have a strong board, to have that accountability and to have that transparency with law enforcement."

Due to not being able to meet quorum, the board has not been able to meet since December. That's when one member was removed, one chose not to renew and several others resigned, leaving open five seats.

"The board has an option to help really lower this gun violence and policing, community policing, I don't think the issues going to be resolved tomorrow but I think it's a step," said Gary.

Malik Gary is one of the remaining members. He believes the board. with the right people, can come together and make changes to bigger community problems.

"I hope people come in with a mindset of let's do the work and not look at colorism or color itself but real issues that everybody can benefit from."

When applications for those seats open again, Commissioner Jeremy Matlow is also hopeful that the board can get back to what it was designed to do.

"We all want the same thing and that's public safety and to feel safe in your own neighborhood, but I think that public input is so paramount that people have somewhere they can go and somewhere they can trust that things are being looked at and done properly."

The Citizens Police Review Board meeting for February has been canceled. The board only needs a total of five members minimum for a quorum for meetings to resume.