This is the letter that I am sending in light of this week's incident where a 62 year-old woman was shot with a taser in her neighborhood. I applaud the swift suspension of Officer Mahan. But it cannot stop there.
Dear Mayor-elect Gillum,
Congratulations on your election as mayor. I still remember you as a student body leader at FAMU back in my days as a reporter. I was impressed with your leadership then, and was thankful that you stayed in Tallahassee, and did not take your talents elsewhere. This city needs a generation that can take us to the next level.
It’s those calm and thoughtful leadership skills that I am asking you to tap into now at this critical time. I was horrified to read that a Tallahassee police officer used a taser on a citizen who was making an inquiry about things happening on her street in her neighborhood. To then see the video wasdisturbing. Ms. Young was walking away from Officer Mahan. How could this possibly justify use of a taser?
I understand that TPD had stepped up patrols along Dunn Street due to complaints from the neighbors about open-air drug dealing. I am glad for that neighborhood that TPD took their request to heart to make themselves more of a presence. However, arresting people because they are standing around, or walking in the street in a place with no sidewalks, and then tasing a citizen in front of all her neighbors is not the kind of presence that I believe that neighborhood wanted, nor should they be afforded that kind of treatment. Increasingly, it seems that there are gaps in the understanding and awareness of how to police without use of force, not just with our police department, but elsewhere (please see Ferguson, MO). There is a disconnect between the police and the neighborhoods and this is leading to more violence and less safety and a destruction of trust. Do we need a citizens’ advisory board for the police, too?
What Officer Mahan did was unacceptable in a society that should be respecting the dignity of every human being. And given the record of “internal investigations” by the police department, I am afraid he will not be adequately punished for what he did. I hope our state attorney will prosecute him for assault.
In the meantime, I hope that as you assume your new role as the leader of our city commission, you will set a course for Tallahassee to move in a direction away from brute force and toward mutual respect. Our institutions—politics, religion, law enforcement—are rapidly losing the faith of the people. It will take smart and compassionate leaders to turn that around. I wish you well in your effort to steer this ship to safer waters.