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Tampa PD hosts community forum to address Memphis tragedy

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As our nation continues to grapple with the deeply disturbing videos of five Memphis Police officers engaged in a traffic stop that led to the death of Tyre Nichols, the Tampa Police Department hosted a community forum on Wednesday night, February 1, 2023, in the wake of Nichols' funeral, to encourage open dialogue between officers and the community they serve.

The panel discussion, led by Interim Police Chief Lee Bercaw, included Black leaders at the Tampa Police Department who serve in various roles ranging from patrol, training, internal affairs, and community policing. Spiritual leaders who serve as TPD Chaplains joined the discussion, and a moment of silence and prayer was held to honor the life of Tyre Nichols.

"I believe there is symbolism in why Tyre Nichols' family chose today, the first day of Black History Month, to lay him to rest," said Interim Chief Bercaw during the discussion. "Tyre Nichols IS black history. Like George Floyd, the tragedy of his death has led to important conversations and will create meaningful change."

Approximately 70 residents, primarily from East and West Tampa neighborhoods, attended the forum held at Allen Temple AME Church located at 2101 Lowe St. Questions included de-escalation training officers receive, body-worn camera audits in place to ensure that use of force incidents are being investigated, and community policing programs in minority communities, such as the Police Athletic League (PAL).

Reverend Dr. Glenn Dames, the pastor of Allen Temple AME, opened and closed the program with a prayer for the Nichols family and Tampa Police officers.

"Tampa PD has built a strong relationship of trust with our community, and while painful, the Memphis incident is an opportunity to address the concerns of our community and share knowledge on the practices in place at TPD to prevent those heinous acts from happening in our city," said Interim Chief Bercaw. "We're thankful for the opportunity to have this discussion with our residents and the trust and transparency we furthered through this forum."