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St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon disputes criticism



St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon is pushing back against the criticism dished out Tuesday by City Council chairman Karl Nurse.

Nurse levied the criticism during an interview with editors and reporters at the Tampa Bay Times. When talking about crime, Nurse called Harmon “a reactive guy.”

Here is Harmon's complete statement:  

Councilmember Nurse, I just wanted you to know that someone brought the below link/article to my attention this afternoon. I have set with the Editorial Board myself a few times and have an understanding of how they function. As with any article, I am aware that there may have been information that was misinterpreted or is being misstated.

I am also keenly aware that you are running for re-election and that some the information was your opinion or at least their interpretation of it. If the information is accurate, I am certainly disappointed that you have not had some prior discussions with me either publicly or in person over the last three years about these issues.  You know that I am a phone call away.

All that being said, I would like to take a moment to point out some factual information. On the issue of crime, crime was at a 40 year low last year and has been basically on the decline for the last decade. If you were referring to crime numbers this year, it is up 6.2% but it is still about 9% under the average of the last five years. I have always cautioned you about using month-to-month percentages because you are dealing with low numbers. It does not paint a true picture.

Regarding community policing, suggesting we return to the old model is antiquated and backward thinking. In the profession, we have evolved from that to problem oriented policing, intelligence led policing and most recently predictive policing. All of these have value and I would describe what we do today is a hybrid of them all. In fact, most police departments are. There is value in community policing and we still have officers who function in that manner. Those being our community service officers and sergeants. We have officers engaging in problem oriented policing as well. Our old model did not make great use of all the new technology that we are using today. We are using that technology in intelligence led policing.

Maybe the one that troubles me the most is the reference to being reactive. If that's your opinion of me, fine, but the men and women of the St. Petersburg Police Department work hard for our citizens each day. They are creative and at times inspirational. Look at a few examples of what they have accomplished. We have officers now being proactive by tracking and paying attention to repeat offenders which has done a good job of reducing crime from those offenders.

We have a Street Crimes Unit that has been working street sales of narcotics and prostitution both which are quality of life issues for our business and neighborhoods. We created a cyber detective position, placed a armored surveillance vehicle in operation and most recently created the DROP unit which has been given great latitude to address crime in a proactive manner.  These are just a few and I could go on. Let’s not forget newly establish partnerships such as with the Sheriff's Office with the Violent Crimes Task Force and the creation of Pinellas Safe Harbor.

A lot of credit should go to the Mayor too. I think all these things are good for our city. Relating to a disconnect with Midtown, again that is your right to have that opinion. I'm not sure exactly what you might base that on. However, I look at such data as citizen complaints, calls for service, surveys of residents we conduct and many more factors. I will just say I do not share that opinion and factually there is nothing I've seen to support it.

We are responsive to our citizens when concerns do arise. Our latest example of that was our response to Reverend Manuel Sykes and the NAACP who brought issues to us regarding pursuits, police shootings, recruitment and field contacts. I'm sure I supplied that detailed response to Council but let me know if you need a copy. In closing, I just felt compelled to respond in writing. We have had a good working relationship over the years and I want that to continue.

Again, I know it is election season and candidates will often say and do things out of character. I will gladly provide any report or factual information to any candidate who asks. If I have misinterpreted anything, please accept my apologies. I'm writing this on a I Phone so please forgive any spelling or grammar errors. Please call me if you have any questions.   

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 9:51am]


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