In 1980, Miami African American insurance salesman Arthur McDuffie died at the hands of law enforcement officers after a motorcycle chase. Violence followed his death in South Florida and intensified months later, when a Hillsborough County court rendered a "not guilty" verdict for the Miami officers involved in McDuffie's death. In response to the civil unrest in Miami, the State of Florida provided funding for police-community relations pilot workshops in Tampa and in other Florida cities.
In 1985 the City of Tampa received a $5,000.00 grant from the state to open up community dialogue forums. Under then Mayor Sandy Freedman the city began funding its own workshops in 1987. This was the year Melvin Hair, a young African American man, died while in police custody after being arrested with force in East Tampa's College Hill Public Housing community. Several nights of civil disturbances, violence and arrests in East Tampa followed Hair's death. The workshop theme was "Law enforcement and community working together toward greater inter-cultural understanding." Eleven workshops and an annual Leadership Retreat facilitated earnest and effective communication between citizens, law enforcement, city, county and state officials.
Hillsborough County first signed an inter-local agreement with the CIty of Tampa in 1987 to co-fund workshops in unincorporated Hillsborough County and in Plant City. The workshops were administered by the City of Tampa Department of Community Affairs with assistance from city and county law enforcement personnel. The overall mission of the Community Affairs office was to help create and maintain good race relations. The City of Tampa and Hillsborough County provided $15,000.00 each for an annual workshop budget of $30,000.00. Some 500 citizens (adults and youth) and 132 officers and deputies attended yearly.
The Sheriff's Office provided six deputies for each of the workshops and sent command-level officers to LEADERSHIP RETREATS. The City of Tampa did the same. A planning committee met each month to critique past and plan future workshops. Participating agencies received written summaries of workshop participant ideas and recommendations following each workshop. The program ended in 2006, when the city opted not to renew funding.
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