City of Tampa YouTube / Screenshot
TO city ââcouncil meeting today, two groups of people came forward to speak for and against Tampa’s controversial crime-free multi-unit program, which has reported around 1,100 people for deportation over the past eight years, 90% of whom were black.
The chief of the Tampa Police Department (TPD), Ruben “Butch” Delgado, was questioned during the meeting whether the TPD had led any of the speakers who supported the program there in order to influence the council.
“Several people in the community alleged that the TPD or the city picked up people from the neighborhoods this morning and brought them to city council to talk,” said City Councilor Bill Carlson. âWas there any program from the city or the TPD to try to influence the city council today as to the outcome of this? “
Delgado responded immediately.
“No sir and I’m not sure what you are with drivingâ¦ I don’t know, but I can tell you, uh, we’re not trying to influence anything.” They had people who were passionate and wanted to give their opinion, âsaid Delgado.
But outside, photos taken by Creative Loafing Tampa Bay show a TPD officer walking someone who has spoken out in favor of keeping the program in the police department parking lot. And while CL was interviewing Lorine Wright, who also spoke in favor of the program at the meeting, TPD Public Safety Information Coordinator Jamel Lanee walked out of town hall for the meeting. escort home.
Wright, who TPD also requested a post on Twitter. earlier this month to advocate for the program, told CL that Lanee had contacted her by phone to speak up for the program at today’s meeting. Wright said she asked TPD what she should talk about in regards to the program, adding that she was guided by the ministry on how to discuss how her community has been affected by the program. of crime-free housing.
âThey told me I could talk about how it was then and how it is now,â Wright told CL outside town hall.
During the public comments, Wright said the TPD helped clean up the crime in Robles Park Village and the police are helping keep them safe and happy. She added that she supported the ‘crime-free housing’ program, but said it shouldn’t tear families apart through evictions either.
She said her overall TPD rating: 8 out of 10.
While CL was talking with Wright, two people came out of the town hall building laughing. These were Lanee and Vanessa Nettingham, Social Media Engagement Coordinator for TPD.
âHere’s my car,â Wright said, acknowledging Lanee.
âI’m going to let you get this interview, get this side of the story,â Lanee told CL.
City of Tampa YouTube / Screenshot
Wright echoed his public comment to city council, but said his feelings about the program were mixed. She said for things to get better, the city needs to address its issues of education, affordable housing and other police programs that are supposed to strengthen the community.
She said the PDT Community Hope program resources is a joke. âAccording to the program’s website, the centers in Robles Park and Sulfur Springs are supposed to be “a haven of peace for children in the most economically disadvantaged areas of the city. Wright says the program is not helping as it should. âYou won’t see kids in there,â she said. She suggested adding more funding to this program to help her neighborhood.
At the end of the interview with CL, Wright accompanied Lanee to her car to drive her home.
CL contacted the TPD to clarify this situation and asked them if Delgado was just confused about the TPD agents and officials leading people to the council meeting that day. We asked how many people the TPD chose to bring to city council and how many of them were there to speak up for the program.
There hasn’t been a response yet, but we’ll update this message if we receive one.
Later during the city council meeting, council chairman Orlando Gudes said he knew police had driven people to the council meeting to speak up for the TPD agenda.
âI brought older people here,â said Gudes, who retired from PDT after 26 years. âI understand the police department, they do that when they have a problem. They bring people who, these people who don’t have cars, so they brought these people.
Gudes, who originally requested a suspension of the program so that he could be seen again, seemed to change his mind at the meeting and followed up an impassioned speech about maintaining the program with its reforms. He mentioned anecdotal âbulliesâ in the community.
About the bullies, he said, âDamn, no, I don’t want them to be there, I want them to come out. Their kids and everything.
Some who were evicted under the crime-free multi-unit program have never been convicted of a crime. The program, even with reforms announced by Mayor Castor last weekend, does not address the issue that innocent people can lose their homes. The reforms also do not deal with the collective punishment that the program promulgates. Under the program, a teenager can commit a crime and a notice of arrest will be sent by the police to a landlord.
The owner can then decide whether or not to evict everyone in the house for the alleged crime. As one speaker pointed out at a recent meeting of the Police Citizen Review Committee, this type of behavior towards the citizens of Tampa would violate the Geneva Convention, which does not allow collective punishment in times of war. (The City of Tampa is not liable for the Geneva Convention.)
The board ended up voted unanimously in favor of letting Delgado report by December 2 with information on how the TPD will educate landlords and provide council with data on how crime-free housing has reduced crime.
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