CPAC prepares for ‘lively’ town halls

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

For months now, Pensacola’s Citizens Police Advisory Committee has discussed and debated the dynamics between law enforcement and the local community, looking towards providing Mayor Grover Robinson with recommendations for improving this relationship by March.

To date, the committee has held its meetings in Pensacola City Hall, but in February, CPAC plans to hold a pair of town halls to engage the public in the conversation.

Because these town halls will be the first occasions that CPAC has directly engaged the public on the sensitive issue of police-community relations, Dr. Cedric Alexander, a retired law enforcement official who is shepherding CPAC, advised the exchanges with the public may be tense and confrontational, amounting to an emotional release. CPAC Chairman Drew Buchanan said he welcomed that passion.

“I hope it is lively,” he said. “I hope I’m not in the minority, [but] I’m kinda bored up here, nobody coming to talk to us. It makes me feel like: ‘is this really important?’”

The first CPAC town hall is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4, at the Fricker Resource Center. The second will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18, at the Bayview Resource Center. The in-person capacity would be limited, and a live stream online option would be available.

In preparation for the town halls, Dr. Alexander suggested that committee members be ready to field questions about the city’s movement on this front and also view the events as an opportunity to build a relationship with the public.

“Who’s going to talk? Who’s going to answer these questions?” Alexander asked. “Because that may be your opportunity for you to gain a following if you will. Or, it could be an opportunity for people to say ‘awww, I’m not gonna bother with this.’”

He also asked CPAC members to be conscious of the reason for the committee’s existence in the first place—a July 2019 incident during which a former PPD detective shot and killed a Black man, Tymar Crawford, during a traffic stop.

“We’ve got to consider the history of policing in this community, especially in communities of color, where that relationship is strained,” Alexander said. “We didn’t just wake up one morning and put this group together. Something happened.”

As CPAC prepares to engage the broader community in its discussions, the city will also be wading into a national search for a new police chief. Alexander said that this fact, coupled with the more in-depth exploration of community-law enforcement relations occurring at the national level, made CPAC’s mission all the more critical and complicated.

“This is becoming more and more complex and more and more convoluted, and you’ve got to be more thoughtful about it,” Alexander advised.

In other CPAC developments, committee member Charles Bare announced this resignation. Pensacola City Councilwoman Sherri Myers will name his replacement since Bare was her appointment to the committee.

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1 thought on “CPAC prepares for ‘lively’ town halls

  1. If not done yet, CPAC members should receive a copy of the late John Appleyard’s report “A Short Account of Pensacola’s City Police Force.” It is found in his booklet “3 Stories of Pensacola” printed in 2013. Of note, Mr. Appleyard reported that the city’s 1908 Police Manual required persons appointed to be city police officers to have a long list of qualifications to include, “He must be a resident and a qualified voter of the city.” At one point, all city police officers were city residents. Now, probably more city police officers live in Santa Rosa County than in the city limit. In my experience, many city police officers know little about the city, would not be able to recognize a city council member if they were speaking to them and do not know the boundaries of the city. One was taken back when I pointed out that they did not live “in the city” as they said. I explained that Nine Mile Road is not “in” the City of Pensacola. Another was surprised to learn that we have “black” garbage cans in the city but outside of the city limit they have “green” ECUA garbage cans. One recently expressed surprise that Mayor Robinson’s graffiti-ridden car wash on Creighton Road was in the county not the city. They told a council member that they thought it was in the city, which would at least have explained if the city’s Code Enforcement Department was ignoring it. During one show I saw on BLAB-TV, Quint Studer interviewed Dr. Cedric Alexander. Mr. Studer asked him about police officers living where they work, seemingly a key aspect of so-called “community policing.” When David Alexander (a city resident) was Police Chief, you did sense that he had a much better sense of the city than the police chiefs before him or after. As I recall the Studer-Alexander exchange, Dr. Alexander did not seem to be an advocate for Pensacola police officers living in Pensacola. I would like someone to ask police chief applicants if they intend to live in the City of Pensacola and/or if they will limit the assignment of full-time police vehicles to police officers who are city residents. The Mayor and City Council have delegated the authority to assign full-time vehicles (or not to do so) to the police chief so it seems a fair question to ask a future police chief because they will have discretion as how to use that authority. Another good question is if a prospective future police chief supports Pensacola police officers continuing to wear the Confederate flag on their badges and patches. The city’s firefighters wear the Confederate flag too. The policy of denying the city’s American Civil War history should at least be consistent one way or the other.

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