A not-so-short history of Police Review Board efforts in Gainesville
Ernesto Longa,
Citizens for Police Review
July/August 2002

Since the campaign for a review board went public in March 2001, the police department has successfully promulgated the myth that CPR formed solely in response to the shooting death of Corey Paul Rice.

In fact, citizen testimony during the Public Safety Committee meetings reveal that a multitude of concerns lay behind the broad base of support that CPR received. Citizens spoke out in both general and specific terms about their concerns of racial profiling, excessive use of force, harassment, unjust disposition of complaints, indifference to calls from the gay and lesbian community, misuse of police dogs, and helicopter sweeps in the NW 5th Ave./Pleasant St. neighborhood.

In addition, our campaign represents the fourth formal attempt to establish a review board to oversee GPD in the last 28 years.

The Gainesville Sun first endorsed the establishment of a review board in 1975 and has done so repeatedly since then.

In 1984, 18 Alachua County grand jurors met 19 times to investigate the Gainesville Police Department. The Grand Jury concluded in a 24-page report that serious mismanagement and lack of leadership existed within the police department.

According to the report, "One of the areas where mismanagement was evident was in the ineffectiveness of administrators to take action against officers who had committed serious rule infractions."

In 1988, NAACP president Joseph Judge petitioned the City Commission to implement a citizens' review board to investigate police shootings, reports of discrimination, and alleged police brutality. "We cannot and will not be satisfied with police officers investigating themselves," said Judge. The February 1988 shooting death of an unarmed black teen-ager in southeast Gainesville and a petition calling for the establishment of a review board signed by nearly three hundred citizens compelled the City Commission to agree to study Judge's request. After nearly a year and a half of meetings, the city commission voted to do nothing.

In 1999, the Police-Community Relations Committee met an exhaustive 21 times in an effort to diffuse the racial tension both within the department and between the police and the black community.

The Police-Community Relations Committee final report acknowledged that, "The right of citizens to complain and criticize and make recommendations about the functions of government is the heart of democracy."

Despite this lofty rhetoric, and a recommendation from NAACP president Ruth Brown that the city establish a review board, the PCC left it solely up to GPD to assure a fair internal affairs process.

Our research has shown that for at least the last thirty years Gainesville has experienced a repeating pattern of problems between GPD and the community, a series of failed measures by the police department, city, blue ribbon panels, and county Grand Jury to ameliorate those problems, and most importantly, the repeated demand from the community for the establishment of a citizens' review board.

Despite police repeatedly testifying of a CPR conspiracy to take over and ruin the police department, our campaign, backed by a coalition of community groups and extensive research has had but one aim, to establish mutual trust, accountability and openness between GPD and the community.

Not only have adequate reasons for establishing a review board been offered over the last year of Public Safety Committee meetings, but they have been offered again and again over the last 28 years. It's time for this commission to vote to establish a citizens' review board.

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