Tallahassee Inspector General Dennis Sutton questioned Citizens Police Review Board member Taylor Biro‘s objectivity during a board subcommittee meeting Thursday.
The subcommittee was meeting to discuss additions and changes to a draft of the Board’s end of year report, scheduled to be finalized next month.
Biro came up during discussion about potentially requiring board members to affirm they will remain objective in their actions on the board at least once a year. Biro is not a part of the subcommittee, and did not attend the meeting.
Biro penned a Nov. 12 opinion piece in the Tallahassee Democrat. In the column, Biro discussed how Tallahassee Police Department Chief Lawrence Revell refused to answer her question about whether he thought being gay or transgender is a sin during his appearance in front of the Mayor’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Council after controversial comments at a religious retreat in September.
Sutton highlighted the last two paragraphs of the piece, which he said gives an impression of bias. In them, Biro wrote, “Don’t ask us to recommend a policy or training to fix this, because policing isn’t broken, it’s performing exactly as it was designed. We cannot remove the eggs from a cake after it comes out of the oven. Sometimes you just need a new recipe.”
He said actions like Biro’s could give a negative impression of the board to Tallahassee Police Department members, decreasing their willingness to work with them. He also said board members were required to say that they would remain unbiased on their application to join the board.
“There is a concern by the rank and file that this board is completely biased against the police department,” he said.
Sutton also criticized one of Biro’s emailed requested additions to the subcommittee. Biro wanted each board member to have the opportunity to make an individual statement on the report.
“It sounds to me like she wants an opportunity to do a “Your Turn” for each board member like she did in the Democrat,” Sutton said.
Sutton is not a part of the board, but is the board’s appointed administrator. He said he is supposed to help the board, but not push or influence its decision making.
Niya Hubbard, a board member on the subcommittee, said Biro also hadn’t completed the Citizen’s Police Academy, a requirement to complete within a year after joining the board. Hubbard said the academy helped her fight biases.
“Actually doing that and getting to meet them and having those personal conversations helped,” she said.
Tallahassee formed the Citizens Police Review Board on Sept. 23, 2020, after a Leon County grand jury found police officers acted lawfully in the controversial shootings of Mychael Johnson, Tony McDade and Wilbon Woodard earlier that month and a summer of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. The Board reviews completed Tallahassee Police Department internal affairs reports, cases, and issues relating to law enforcement, but it cannot review ongoing internal affairs investigations or discipline officers for misconduct.
Biro told Florida Politics Sutton’s comments signal the city wants the board to lean more in favor of law enforcement.
“I am a citizen police review board member, and my job is to represent the citizens of Tallahassee, their concerns about law enforcement,” she said. “The realities are that not everyone feels safe connecting with the police. And I believe that’s just as valuable to be represented.”
Biro said she isn’t biased, she just doesn’t support how police currently operate in the city.
“So I wouldn’t say I’m biased if the police would approach our community members, as community members, and not as punishing poverty,” she said.
Biro said she has not completed the Citizens Police Academy, which is held two times a year, because of scheduling conflicts with the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council, as well as a busy schedule working as a social worker and being a single mom.
She said she was concerned she would be targeted for board removal for not meeting that requirement. During the subcommittee meeting, all board members and Sutton said they don’t want to remove someone for not completing the Academy. Multiple members have not completed it, including the subcommittee’s chair, Edward Gaines.
The next Citizens Police Review Board meeting is on Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the Smith-Williams Service Center.