LONGWOOD, Fla. – The deaths of Rayshard Brooks and George Floyd, among many others, have raised questions about police brutality and whether officers are always justified in the use of force.
That has prompted some cities to consider citizen review boards for its police department.
One Longwood man is calling for his city to do the same.
Longwood resident J.P. Gilbert said what happened to George Floyd was his breaking point. Gilbert, who is also a defense lawyer in Seminole County, spoke at Longwood’s city commission meeting Monday to present his idea of the city creating a citizen review board.
"Absolutely tired of the injustice happening in this country," said J.P. Gilbert. "I think we needed some accountability, some transparency right in our community of Longwood, and I think a police review board would be helpful."
He told News 6 that he and his wife have seen and taken part in protests across Central Florida, but now he wants to go a step further and create the review board.
Last Friday, He sent Mayor Matt Morgan a letter asking for support in creating a citizen-run committee to hold police more accountable.
“Longwood citizens have no ability, no opportunity right now to even address any sort of use of excessive force, this will change that,” Gilbert said
Mayor Matt Morgan said he’s talked with Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma and other area police chiefs about citizens review boards.
“I don’t think it is a bad thing obviously, I think it’s only going to help,” said Mayor Morgan. “Absolutely wide open to it. I’m actually really honored that he [Gilbert] reached out to us like this, and is as passionate about it - we all should be.”
Longwood police released a statement late Monday saying police chief David Dowda has talked with J.P. Gilbert and he’s not opposed to the concept of an advisory board.
“I’m interested in listening to any suggestions anyone has, whether it’s from the public or the president," Dowda said.
He said next he’ll research other agencies to see if and how to move forward.
“We’re open to whatever reform would improve the job we’re doing out here," Dowda said.
The Longwood City manager says there may be some legal restrictions, but generally speaking, the police chief can create the review board or the city commission could vote on it.
This comes after a controversial traffic stop in Longwood last year when according to reports, an officer pressured a teen into a false confession when that officer confused the teen for someone else who ran a stop sign.
The cop was ordered to 36 hours suspension without pay and 6 months probation, according to reports.
The police chief also said he sent the report to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for an independent investigation and they took no further action.