Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

Mayor's team takes tough look at St. Petersburg police, fire agencies

ST. PETERSBURG — The final subcommittee of Mayor Rick Kriseman's transition team issued its recommendations about public safety this weekend — and it was tough on the city's police and fire departments.

The committee members, which included a retired firefighter and assistant police chief, said staffing, training and management at both agencies need to be reviewed. Recent controversies at both departments also suggest the need for new leadership — and new direction — for both as well, the report said.

"In city government, there is no role more important than those individuals who lead the police and fire departments," the report said. "Therefore, it is imperative that the city has the right people in place to properly lead these two crucial organizations."

The group also recommended: that red-light cameras be eliminated or limited; that police receive more training in light of recent officer-involved shootings; that the city consider consolidating jobs to save money; that the policy allowing take-home police and fire vehicles be re-evaluated; and that more civilians be assigned administrative duties at fire headquarters so that high-earning firefighters can be sent back out to the stations.

"I spent a lot of my time doing this," said former Assistant Police Chief Cedric Gordon, who retired last fall after more than 30 years with the department. "And I believe a lot of what's in the report."

Not everyone was impressed.

Police union officials said they felt the report was biased and that it attacked officers.

"It should be shredded," said Michael Krohn, executive director of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association. "This was clearly written by a team of individuals who are not pro-law enforcement. This report bashes them."

The union was particularly disheartened by the team's recommendation that a civilian with a "reputable reputation" in the black community serve on the selection committee to pick the next police chief.

The union also did not like a suggestion that GPS devices be used to examine the driving patterns and habits of officers.

The report also surmised that the number of grievances filed against officers reached a record low in the past four years because officers "are not being properly disciplined."

"This report makes it seem like we have a bunch of cowboys," Krohn said. "Nothing in here suggests what we should be doing to catch the bad person. It speaks more of the officer being the criminal or the bad person."

Krohn said he agreed with nothing in the report and hopes Kriseman doesn't follow any of its recommendations.

Other team suggestions include:

• An outside consultant should do a workload analysis to determine whether the city needs more officers.

• The city should explore whether officers who live outside the county should be charged for using take-home cars.

• Officials should consider installing diesel exhaust systems at fire stations.

• The city should train more mechanics to handle specialized emergency vehicles.

• The city should ensure race and gender diversity at both agencies, especially in senior ranks at the fire department.

The group cited the practice of shift swapping — the practice of firefighters exchanging shifts with little oversight — as a reason that the fire department needs new leadership.

Fire Chief Jim Large was unavailable for comment Saturday.

"It's citizens making recommendations to the mayor," said fire spokesman Lt. Joel Granata. "It's up to the mayor to decide what he will or will not do."

The mayor has not yet read the committee's public safety report, which is one of nine subcommittees on the transition team producing a variety of reports analyzing city functions.

"I know he wants to dedicate time to each of these reports," said Ben Kirby, the city's communication director.

Eventually Kriseman will be given a final report that would combine the work of all nine subcommittees.

Officials on Saturday said they are still working to complete that final report and don't know when it would be delivered to the new mayor. They had originally set a target date of Jan. 2.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected], (727) 893-8643 or @cornandpotatoes on Twitter.

Comments
Suspect identified in string of carjackings from Orlando to Plant City

Suspect identified in string of carjackings from Orlando to Plant City

PLANT CITY — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has identified the suspect in a string of carjackings from Orlando to Plant City.Deputies are searching for Majar L. Jones, 43, of Orlando.Jones may still be in a stolen 2002 green Ford F-150 with...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Lightning’s next opponent and playoffs’ economic impact; Rick Scott earns political victory; what goes on in that pink house?; it’s draft day for Bucs

The Daystarter: Lightning’s next opponent and playoffs’ economic impact; Rick Scott earns political victory; what goes on in that pink house?; it’s draft day for Bucs

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Another sunny day today with high temperatures in the low 80s, according to 10Weather WTSP. Friday brings the possibility of rain, and the weekend brings the heat: Sunday’s high is in...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Aside from former Florida State safety Derwin James, the most likely first-round pick from a state college is ex-Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan.He hopes, at least."That would (stink) if I didn't," Bryan said last month at Florida's pro da...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

TAMPA — As the Tampa Bay Lightning wait for its next playoff opponent to come to town, the city’s business community — large and small — say they’ve already won this NHL postseason.At WestShore Plaza this week, with blue and white banners surrounding...
Updated: 2 hours ago
SOCom leader wanted to toss Google exec from car. Because he was right.

SOCom leader wanted to toss Google exec from car. Because he was right.

TAMPA — Standing in front of an audience of several thousand scientists, data wonks, geospatial intelligence analysts and other big thinkers, Army Gen. Tony Thomas drew some laughs when he talked about the time he felt the urge to toss Google CEO Eri...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The last cigar factory in Tampa keeps rolling

The last cigar factory in Tampa keeps rolling

YBOR CITY -- History lives here, inside the J.C. Newman Cigar Co.Machines manufactured in the 1930s are still used to pack and roll the cigars, and the sights and smells are throwbacks. Tobacco bits litter the weathered wooden floor, and a pungent od...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: Is it still environmentally conscious if it’s based on a sham?

Romano: Is it still environmentally conscious if it’s based on a sham?

Let’s discuss biosolids waste. I promise, it won’t be gross or boring.No, this is more of a how-did-we-lose-money-again bedtime story.Our tale begins around 2006 when St. Pete officials began exploring a biosolids project. The city was eventually goi...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

TAMPA —These smart phones and computers and internet are big annoyances to Sister Madonna Buder.Every time she turns around, there's a message or a request or a question coming into one of her devices from somewhere in the world."What's all the...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Long wait at Wingstop ends in brawl, hot oil and 2nd degree burns

Long wait at Wingstop ends in brawl, hot oil and 2nd degree burns

TAMPA — A customer visited Wingstop on Sunday night to pick-up his order. What happened next was off-menu:Robert Williams said he suffered second-degree burns on his back and legs after a Wingstop employee threw hot oil on him during a scuffle.Willia...
Updated: 9 hours ago
FHP identifies driver in crash that killed

FHP identifies driver in crash that killed "smiling" teen

TRINITY — Friends said what they’ll remember the most about Lillia Morris is that she was always smiling.The 17-year-old Mitchell High School junior was killed Tuesday when a sport-utility vehicle ran a red light on State Road 54 and slammed into the...
Updated: 10 hours ago