Tampa, FL – On December 5, Tampa community members, the family of Josiah Pinner, and the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee (TBCAC) rallied outside of Tampa City Hall where they demanded justice for victims of police terror. Josiah Pinner, 15, was murdered in a hit-and-run by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) deputy Philip Montesi in 2019. Jonas Joseph was shot at over 125 times and killed while in his vehicle in April of 2020, with the Tampa Police Department (TPD) officers facing no charges or other repercussions. Dominique Mulkey was shot at over 40 times and killed by TPD officers in October of 2020 after stealing food from a Dollar General because he was hungry.
These cases of police terror are only a few examples from a long history of extra-judicial murder and coverup in Tampa. The police have the protection of the local government as the mayor, Jane Castor, was chief of police from 2009 to 2015, and state attorney of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Andrew Warren, has defended police officers in cases of misconduct. The families of Josiah Pinner, Jonas Joseph and Dominique Mulkey have also been denied access to certain details of their cases, including autopsy reports and dash camera footage by Castor and Warren.
“Both the mayor and state attorney are responsible for keeping these families from getting the justice they deserve. When they make conflicting reports on these investigations and jump through hoops to silence the families, it shows that they don’t represent or stand by us but with the crooked Tampa cops,” said David Jones of the TBCAC.
Beyond the explicit and implicit support of the police by the local government, the organ primarily responsible for overview of the police, the Citizen Review Board, is weak and can only review decided disciplinary cases and give recommendations. Those present at the rally also demanded community control of the police through a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).
“The police have too much power, and if we want accountability, we need the people in control of the cops, not the other way around. A CPAC would allow community representatives to hire and fire cops, to decide the police budget, and investigate police crimes. No matter how you demand justice, by standing together, we can put power in the hands of the people,” said Simon Rowe of Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society.
David Jones added, “We need a CPAC because we cannot count on ex-cops like Castor to give us the change we need. The only way that we’ll get the accountability these families deserve and the changes to keep this from continuing to happen is putting power back in the hands of the people. Making sure that the people have real power to decide what happens in their community.”
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