Too often when the public criticizes police forces for misconduct, it avoids the reality that the city is overburdening police and often dumping the fallout of its policy failures on their shoulders. Yet there are policy solutions that can further ease this burden, and nothing points to solutions better than talking to our officers themselves. Since taking office, I’ve had the privilege to go on several ride-alongs with Tampa’s police officers, and nearly every officer I’ve spoken to agrees that shifting fully towards community policing works. 

This is a great step forward towards a more proactive, rather than reactive, strategy—valuing transparency with the people. St. Petersburg has found considerable success with its CALL program, which utilizes non-police interventions to nonviolent incidents. After two years, CALL staff have no recorded on-the-job injuries and can call in law enforcement when needed—which cuts down on unnecessary police action, eases strain on dispatchers, and frees officers to focus on keeping our neighborhoods safe. In conjunction with community policing, we unburden our officers while nurturing their roots in our neighborhoods—because they should be their neighborhoods too. 

Population growth is happening all over, but in areas like New Tampa, Channelside, and south-of-Gandy, rapid expansion has created an unacceptable situation as residents face delays for emergency services. These are literal life-and-death situations, and both our protectors and neighbors are being stretched too thin; it’s cruel to force our cops and firefighters to sacrifice even more, and unfair to make Tampeños bear the financial burden. 

A public safety impact fee solves this. Much like infrastructure impact fees cover the cost of streets and sewers, this fee—paid by developers, not taxpayers—lets us properly support our police and fire departments while holding outside interests responsible for adding to their workload! This subject was brought up two years ago, but was only prioritized after I joined Tampa City Council—and I will see it through.

I joined the Police Department recently to help “shut down” Ybor City on a Saturday night, and saw firsthand how difficult it is to clear the streets. The number of violent incidents late at night in Ybor City is increasing, and a major reason for this is that our officers are getting pulled away to address unmonitored private parking lots. We’ve had an ordinance on the books for nearly 25 years that requires every private parking lot in Ybor City to be staffed by an attendant, but on my ride-along I saw that in many of the lots, these laws are being ignored.

The result? Tampa Police regularly have to call in units from outside the area—depriving other neighborhoods of police presence—to cover for selfish/greedy private lot owners. I’ve called for a City Council workshop so that we can address this problem together, as a community. If we can do our part and properly enforce all of our public safety ordinances, we help to free up our first responders to focus on their critical work and not pick up our slack, because the people are a part of public safety too!

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