KENNETH CITY — The council member in charge of the Police Department says Chief Doug Pasley is guilty of "gross mismanagement" of his officers and needs to go.
Pasley is more interested in driving around and waving at people than he is in running a professional police organization, Troy Campbell said. If other council members refuse to fire Pasley, then Campbell said he'd turn the chief into a crossing guard.
"I will get his ass out of the way of that department," Campbell said. "I will put his ass out on 54th Avenue and let his attorney sue me."
If necessary to ensure the safety of officers and residents, Campbell said he is prepared to take even more drastic action.
"I'm not afraid to put a chain on that department and shut it down," he said.
When reached Friday, Pasley said, "I do not want to make any statement whatsoever."
Campbell charged other council members with playing politics rather than doing what's best for police officers and residents when they refused to second his motion to terminate Pasley during a special meeting Wednesday. Mayor Teresa Zemaitis, who tried to fire Pasley last summer, was prevented from doing so because parliamentary rules forbid the person running a meeting from making or seconding motions. But the other three council members — Ron Sneed, Wanda Dudley and Joanne DeSimone — sat silent when Campbell made his motion. It failed for lack of a second.
That essentially amounted to a renewal of Pasley's contract. The document says that if the council does not tell him at least 120 days before its termination date that members no longer want him as chief, it will automatically renew for three years. Pasley makes about $61,000 a year.
"The issue is (that) you have political games in play, and it's absolutely dangerous," Campbell said. "There's stupid politics in the way. It is an absolute tragedy that anyone is going to allow personal politics to get in the way of public safety."
The no-vote came after the council had heard a Pinellas County sheriff's report of a review of the department. The inspection analyzed everything from morale to equipment to training.
Among the concerns:
• Lack of a secure gun locker. Cases containing semiautomatic pistols had fallen and partially blocked a door. Two shotguns were stashed in a 5-gallon plastic bucket.
• Officers receive minimal training and no hands-on training in such things as defensive tactics, driving, handcuffing and the use of pepper spray. Officers told sheriff's deputies they "are not permitted to participate in 'hands-on' practical training for fear of injury, per Chief Pasley."
• Officers' CPR certifications expired in January 2010.
Other findings included lack of computers, outdated software, filthy police cars, a rat infestation in the building, poorly maintained police cars and a manual of standard operating procedures that was last fully updated in 1997.
The report is the latest in a string of allegations of poor management that have dogged Pasley since April. An earlier sheriff's investigation found numerous instances of Kenneth City officers spending hours out of town — one as far as his home in Clearwater — while logged in for duty. At least one officer was found to be trolling dating, bodybuilding and other such Internet sites while on duty on his police computer.
Tapes from the sheriff's emergency dispatch system showed at least three incidents in the past 35 days in which Kenneth City officers failed to respond to radio calls.
As serious as those allegations are, Pasley remains popular with a majority of the council and many in Kenneth City who like his folksy persona. Pasley, 68, has said he is the only chief who knows the heart of Kenneth City and speaks often of his willingness to put his fate in the Lord's hands. He told council members during a workshop last month that citizens come by the department to pray with him.
Several times the council has refused to discuss allegations of the chief's shortcomings. The latest was Wednesday when the council decided not to discuss the 47-page sheriff's report. Campbell said he fears the council will do nothing until an officer is killed.
"That situation does not need to happen," Campbell said.
Campbell said he's dedicated to making sure it does not. The first step, he said, is to eliminate Pasley as chief.
"There's not misconduct going on," he said. "There's gross mismanagement going on."
He added that the council needs to answer the question, "Why are you tolerating this?"
Pasley, he said, needs to "explain … why you need to have your contract extended" when he hasn't done the job.
Campbell said the money is there to fix many of the problems. But even if there were money problems, many of the lapses — such as keeping police cars clear of food wrappers and other trash, or dusting air vents — cost nothing.
"You're paying for a professional service and, through no fault of the men at this time, you're not getting a professional service," Campbell said. "That is gross dereliction."
The Kenneth City department has 12 officers and costs about $1.2 million a year, or about 55 percent of the town's $2.2 million budget.
Campbell said he realizes he's in a weak situation. Even though he's in charge of the Police Department, three other council members have overruled him when it comes to running it. The only way out, he said, is to have residents and officers from other jurisdictions demand that council members do the right thing.
"That's the only strength I have," Campbell said. "The voice of the people will be heard and will overcome."
He said he's hoping those people come to Wednesday's workshop when Campbell plans to bring up Pasley's future.
Reach Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.