PINELLAS PARK — One piece of advice many career counselors offer is to never follow a star when you take a new job.
Yet that's exactly what Pinellas Park's new police chief has done.
Mike Haworth took over command of the department last week from Dorene Thomas, a much-loved chief in the city and much respected in the law enforcement community, who straightened out a department that was mired in chaos when she took over.
So, what was Haworth's first act as chief? It came weeks ago, after Thomas formally announced her retirement in January. Haworth went to his officers and went to residents and formed focus groups asking, among other things, what they saw as the department's weaknesses, strengths, and where members thought the department should go in the future.
What resulted is a 22-page strategic plan that he vetted individually with Pinellas Park council members. The plan, with its more than 80 objectives, will provide the framework for the department's future. It's a plan that, Haworth says, builds on what Thomas began.
It's a plan, he says, that hinges on several values: integrity, professionalism, and service and dedication to the community.
"These are the things I think are very important," Haworth said. "These are the things that will drive the way we police."
Among the differences will be an increased use of technology to make command decisions. Haworth said he wants to look at staffing to make sure his officers are deployed as strategically as possible. Crunching the data can help with that, he said. It can also help with deciding if the department, with more than 100 sworn officers, needs more staff.
"We can critically look at where we're delivering services and make adjustments," he said.
Pinellas Park residents can also expect to see more crime prevention education and activity. And, hand in hand with that, they'll likely see increased police presence in certain areas. Haworth said he believes police do a great job of catching criminals and getting them off the street. Now, he said, it's time to help prevent that crime.
The increased presence in certain areas will build on the department's community redevelopment area patrol, which was Haworth's brainchild. Pinellas Park's CRA stretches for about three blocks each side of Park Boulevard from the Shoppes at Park Place to about 66th Street N. Portions of it also stretch on either side of 49th Street N. The CRA patrol is dedicated to getting to know the business owners and residents in that area on a one-to-one level to find out the problems they're facing and to solve them.
That concept could be expanded to other areas of the city.
What residents won't see, at least anytime soon, are body cameras. The department already has car cameras, Haworth said, so he's not opposed to the technology. But before he commits Pinellas Park to the concept, Haworth said he wants to talk with others in the law enforcement community about the pros and cons. And, he said, the Legislature may weigh in.
Haworth, 53, grew up in Dunedin and has spent his entire law enforcement career in Pinellas Park.
Hired in 1990 as a police officer, Haworth has held every command position in the organization and, in 2013, was assigned to the city manager's office as an interim assistant city manager. In August of that year, he returned to the Police Department to be in charge of uniformed patrol and special operations. He was promoted to assistant chief of police in February 2014, the first in Pinellas Park to hold that rank. He was the department's Officer of the Year in 1995. Haworth holds a bachelor of arts degree from Angelo State University and a master of public administration from Troy State University. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the certified public manager program at Florida State University.
He is married and has one son. He lives in Pinellas Park.
Contact Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes.