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Manatee NAACP leader voices more police concerns. Here’s how city council responded

Some heated moments in city council meeting

Some heated talk and accusations punctuated the morning at the Bradenton City Council meeting May 22, 2019.
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Some heated talk and accusations punctuated the morning at the Bradenton City Council meeting May 22, 2019.

Bradenton City Council members discussed more open communication after the leader of the Manatee County NAACP brought complaints against the Bradenton Police Department to the public comments portion of a city council meeting for the second time this month.

On May 8, Jones was forcibly removed from a Bradenton City Council meeting while addressing council members and later arrested. At the time, Jones raised complaints against the Bradenton Police Department.

On Wednesday, he raised the same concerns, but this time about 15 supporters sat behind him in City Hall.

Specifically, Jones noted two incidents — a traffic stop involving a deacon at a local church and another when he said a police vehicle was sitting in front of his home — that he first brought up on May 8.

Jones said the account he was told about the April 22 traffic stop by the man involved was different than the results of a Bradenton Police Office of Professional Standards memo. The memo stated that after speaking to the man involved in the traffic stop, “It is clear the traffic stop was conducted appropriately with no policy violations discovered” and recommended the inquiry be closed with the finding of unfounded.

Bradenton Police Department chief Melanie Bevan ordered the investigation after the May 8 city council meeting, she said in an email to Jones and several others.

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Mayor Wayne Poston reacts to a member of the audience speaking out of turn during the Bradenton City Council meeting Wednesday, May 22. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Jones called the investigation a sham. Jones, who once ran for a seat on the Manatee County school board and lost, previously has voiced complaints against the Bradenton Police Department and has considered a lawsuit against the Bradenton Housing Authority.

He added BPD substantiated the reasoning for the police vehicle to be in front of his house, but said getting that answer took 29 days.

Issues brought up by Jones on Wednesday have been addressed by BPD, Bevan said.

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Ruth Beltran, organizer with Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Suncoast, was one of the people sitting with Jones. She also spoke Wednesday, saying people should feel safe in filing complaints against officers and the police should have an independent agency to perform investigations into such allegations.

“You have your most expensive department that doesn’t have any oversight,” Beltran said. “When you file a complaint, the chief and her officers cannot, cannot possibly conduct independent investigations when they a vested interest in the result of that investigation.”

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NAACP Manatee president Rodney Jones addresses Mayor Wayne Poston during the Bradenton City Council meeting Wednesday, May 22. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Beltran said she hoped to hear in future meetings about solutions that involve the community.

During her time at the podium, Betty Sailes Rhodes told the councilmen she stood with Jones. She also said that police and councilmen should attend a multicultural workshop.

“But over the years you have changed because you’re supposed to look out for all races,” Sailes Rhodes said. “You’re not doing a good job of it. I’m telling you guys you’re not.”

Councilman Patrick Roff said he was not happy with the way the last meeting went, the one at which Jones spoke.

President of the Manatee County chapter NAACP Rodney Jones was forcibly removed from a Bradenton City Council meeting May 8, 2019 after he refused to leave when his time for public comment was up.

“I hear what you’re saying,” Roff told Jones. “But you really need to not hold the other council people responsible for something that’s out of their hands.”

Councilman Gene Gallo told Jones that if the council was involved in every police investigation, they wouldn’t be dealing with anything else.

“The way this council should handle things like that is to permit the process to go. It is investigated and after it is investigated, whatever the results are, we deal with them then. We don’t deal with allegations we don’t know to be true,” Gallo said.

A woman stood in the audience after Jones addressed the council members asking what the council could do for the community. Several others chimed in from their seats before Mayor Wayne Poston slammed the gavel and threatened to close the meeting.

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Betty Sailes Rhodes addresses the council during the Bradenton City Council meeting Wednesday, May 22. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Byrd said there is a need for de-escalation and common solutions. He suggested an open dialogue or a liaison and said he wouldn’t mind addressing the charter but noted that’s a process that takes time.

“I think this is something we can do. We hear you we’re trying to address these things,” Byrd said. “Until we build that trust ... and have that open dialogue, things aren’t going to get much better.”

Councilman Bill Sanders said for city council to have legitimate oversight of the police department, the city’s charter would need to be changed. Roff said he’s been calling for a charter review for years.

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People listen during the Bradenton City Council meeting Wednesday, May 22. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

“I do think there is a need to explore whether we can address community concerns and possibly avoid speculation,” Roff said.

No decision was made Wednesday, and Byrd said none needed to be, but he hoped the council could look at some sort of dialogue.

“I hope people understand, when I look at Bradenton, it’s about more than Rodney Jones,” Byrd said.

Bevan said she acknowledges communication is key to nearly every conflict and her agency is committed to that.

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Ruth Beltran addresses the council during the Bradenton City Council meeting Wednesday, May 22. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

“My officers remain committed to policing with ethics, with integrity, with compassion and we do that for everybody who lives here,” Bevan said.

She added the department is an open book and has a zero tolerance attitude.

After public comment, Jones and a group of approximately 15 people gathered outside city hall.

“We’re just tired. We’re not taking it anymore,” Jones said.

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