The Tampa City Council approved $952,000 to purchase more than 600 body cameras for the Tampa Police Department on Thursday, a move Police Chief Brian Dugan says many members of his force may not like, but if they don’t like it, “then I suggest that you turn your badge in.”
“The landscaping of policing has changed dramatically in the last five days,” Dugan told the Council, referring to the George Floyd inspired protests throughout Tampa and the country. “And if there’s a police officer in the city of Tampa that does not want a body-worn camera, then I suggest that you turn your badge in. Because we cannot have that anymore. It has changed.”
Dugan spoke to the press, stating that he thinks the cameras would make a difference in terms of transparency, but acknowledged that they were not popular with his officers.
“The cops are not going to be happy. I’m not naïve. I get it. But I think the good cops realize that times have changed,” he said. “They don’t trust us, and we’ve got to fix that. And body cameras are not the answer to everything.”
He also said that “Obviously we had to take a hard look at what we were purchasing, what we had purchased, and that’s when I recommended to the mayor that we just hit the pause button to figure out what was going on with that purchase.”
Former state legislator Ed Narain criticized the actions by the police force against protesters on Tuesday night. He said the council should encourage State Attorney Andrew Warren and Mayor Jane Castor to drop the unlawful gathering charges against the more than 60 people who were arrested that evening.
“Sometimes defending your city is ugly,” Dugan told council members, adding that the event was “not my proudest moment.”
Dugan said that he had called Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, Public Defender Julianne Holt and State Attorney Warren on Wednesday morning to work on getting those arrested out of jail, adding that he would work with Holt and Warren’s office to review the cases after the current social unrest slows down.
Council members Orlando Gudes and state Rep. Dianne Hart criticized Mayor Jane Castor’s administration for a lack of communications, as the council learned from the public, and not the mayor’s office, that members of the National Guard being in Tampa earlier this week.
John Dingfelder apologized for referring to looters as “thugs,” claiming that he was unaware of the racial implications of the word he used to described a multiracial group stealing last Saturday night.
Dingfelder was blasted by several speakers for referring to looters as “thugs.”
Councilman Joe Citro apologized for using the term “red” and “yellow” referring to American Indians and Asians.
Councilman Bill Carlson referred to a number of incidents over the past decade that he said showed an indifference to the black community.
The Council voted to have a discussion about the police department on August 27. The City Attorney would be asked to present a set of recommended policy changes back to the Council a month later.