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Community leaders: St. Pete police investigation confirms our fears

ST. PETERSBURG — Some community leaders say an internal investigation completed this week confirms their suspicions that some police officers operate with a cowboy mentality in the city's southern neighborhoods and don't respect residents.

The internal affairs inquiry, sparked several months ago by a resident who said she witnessed police chasing a car through Childs Park without lights or sirens, resulted in suspensions for three officers. A fourth resigned.

Even though police administrators cleared the officers of the most serious allegation — that they were involved in an unauthorized pursuit — they found that the officers broke other rules, including operating without supervision and making improper comments on the radio.

"This validates the people who have come forward and said this is happening," said the Rev. Manuel Sykes, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP branch. "Hopefully this shows them they have some weaknesses in the system."

Sykes and other neighborhood leaders have gone to top city and police leaders before with complaints from residents about the way police operate in Midtown. One of the biggest complaints has been about cruisers speeding through neighborhoods.

Assistant Chief Luke Williams said he thinks the behaviors exposed in the internal affairs investigation are not widespread.

"We want officers to be proactive," Williams said. "My expectation is when they do that, they are doing it in the guidelines and parameters of our rules and regulations."

On Friday, police released the 15-page transcript of a conversation among the officers, who were found to have made "inappropriate and unprofessional comments" over a radio channel not being monitored by dispatchers or supervisors. The 45-minute conversation took place when it appears the officers were trying to track stolen cars in the Childs Park neighborhood.

Patrol officers David M. Kimes, 38, Robert J. Leoce, 38, Michael W. Carter, 41, and Eric B. Galloway, 31, were working in or near that area, which they referred to as "Shady Side," on July 11.

That night, a rented silver Chevy Malibu with tinted windows caught their attention.

When it sped through a red light at the intersection of 18th Avenue S and 37th Street, two of the officers followed.

The car got away. The officers moved on. But the incident didn't go unnoticed.

Lillian Baker, a former neighborhood president, was at the intersection and saw the marked police cars chase the vehicle. The next day, she sent an email to police Chief Chuck Harmon demanding answers. At first, there weren't many.

None of the officers had filed a report. When detectives could find no record of the incident Baker described, they used GPS-like technology to track which cruisers were in the area at that time. Then they looked at the peripheral radio channels.

According to the transcript, Kimes at one point told Leoce: "You better be careful what you do down there, you'll get yourself suspended or fired if they call, if they get the NAACP involved." Later, they talked about how an officer would have to get run over before it would be okay to shoot.

The officers' comments were made the day after another officer was fired and several others were disciplined for their roles in two incidents in which police shot at suspects fleeing in cars, which is against policy.

Williams suspended Kimes for three days. Leoce and Carter were suspended for two days. Galloway resigned in August.

Williams said the officers acknowledged they had been "lax" on the radio and made inappropriate comments.

Kurt Donley, president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations, said he is alarmed by the findings.

"If you got a few cowboys, you probably got a lot of cowboys," said Donley, who also has gone to city leaders with concerns. "A large portion of the population feels like they are being targeted. When that gets brought to the public consciousness, usually there's a negative reaction on both sides. … But when people are operating outside the standard of procedure, it raises red flags."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow her on Twitter @cornandpotatoes.

St. Petersburg Police radio transcript

PART 1

7/11/13, Time: 2200-2212

Galloway: All right, I'm on 15 heading northbound, 43.

Leoce: Should be up at 11, trying to come out to 43 now.

Leoce: Looks like that's him far north.

Leoce: He just went, ah, he just went west on 6-9, I'll pick west on 11.

Galloway: All right, I'm west on, ah, 15 from 43.

Leoce: What did that tag come back to?

Galloway: I'm not getting anything back because my computer completely froze. You still got eyeball? I'm working on 4-9.

Leoce: No, I got stuck between two Grandmas driving down 11 and ah, I'm trying to circle back up to 9th, but I have to assume by now he's gone, ah, nothings coming back, I don't know why it's working so slow.

Galloway: Yeah, I was getting nothing, then. It's still on the home screen.

Leoce: Yeah, so am I. Guy's coming back.

Leoce: I, I, Sierra 009 you can interrupt.

Galloway: Yeah, 26.

Leoce: 10-4.

Galloway: Figures.

Leoce: I just don't know if it's one of us.

Leoce: I, I, you know I, he has our tinted windows, I can't really tell.

Galloway: Yeah, usually if it was one of us and they see us straggling along, they tend to come on the radio, but.

Leoce: Ah, got a lot of smoke down here.

Voice: Where you at?

Leoce: Ah,

Leoce: 8-46.

Leoce: If I have to guess, it's a Malibu; a brand new one.

Leoce: Last I had it by tail lights, it was going west bound on 8th and 43; I was just about to follow.

Galloway: Yeah, If it's a new one, you ain't gonna catch up to it now, this crown vic actually might keep up with it, it's a little bit older, so.

Leoce: It was racing a brand new red Ford Mustang - break-

Leoce: Uh, I saw it as I was coming back east on 15, it was over there by Shady Side.

Galloway: Was it a convertible ah, newer Mustang?

Leoce: Ah, I believe so. I believe it's the one I'm sitting here at, ah, 11-46.

Galloway: Yeah, we saw that one before when we were sent on a call. Drove up the alleys went right by us.

Leoce: Yeah, I just can't be for sure, I mean, I had them both, I just, I followed the silver Malibu that went, ah, cutting up 43rd.

Leoce: All right, something different back on, ah, 14th back east bound, on 14th and 46th trying to catch up, man.

Galloway: Follow to direction. I'm on, ah, 43.

Leoce: Going east bound on 14; got those new, ah, LED lights.

Leoce: Well, it looks like maybe a Mustang.

Galloway: It's probably him, I'm coming up 43, 43, ah, 10-43 right now.

Leoce: Yeah, it's indicating south.

Galloway: I think I have a brand new … (unintelligible) … ah Mustang north bound, on 4-3. Yeah, there he is, I see him. He's not going, ah, east bound.

Leoce: Ah, he's trying to take off, he's going south. Go to; go down 43 if you can.

Galloway: Yeah, will do.

Galloway: South bound hitting it hard. East bound; east bound which looks like about 18, and he's way down east bound, ah, down 18, hard on the brakes. Looks like maybe 37th.

Galloway: South bound 37 from 18.

Leoce: All right, going down to 22.

Galloway: Okay, he's probably going to double back. Tell you what, this older crown vic is way faster.

Leoce: Got eyes anymore?

Galloway: No, I lost him south bound, ah 3-7. I'm, ah, now south bound 3-7 myself, I don't see him anywhere.

Leoce: All right, I'm in front of Thurgood Marshall here. He has the bright lights, the LED lights up there.

Galloway: Yeah, 26, he's already beat out on us.

Leoce: Clear all the way to 3-7, I'm going to come back on 3-8 here.

Galloway: They were sure it was red not black, correct?

Leoce: I'm almost certain, I watched it pass me by, but that was the black one that, ah, that one was dark. I didn't get close enough, but it looked like it was probably black.

Galloway: Yeah, there's a black one 22, 3-7 heading west bound.

Leoce: Yeah where did it go? I'm here at 38th I don't see it yet.

Galloway: He's still west bound, he's on it right now; he's coming your way. He's now south bound, south bound, ah, 3, correction, Kingston. Going around the loop on Kingston all the way down to the end, ah, head east bound on 22.

Leoce: I'm on 38th; he's going back to 37?

Galloway: He's ah, blacked out, he's going to be down on 34 from 38, way down, and he's south bound on 34.

Galloway: All right breaking off.

Leoce: Yeah, I, just, west.

Voice: My bad.

Galloway: It's all good man. We'll get him tomorrow.

Leoce: Or later, starting to pick up.

Leoce: Yeah, I think he cut back east on probably like on 21st and it looked like he came back out on round 36, coming back west and when he saw you coming on 37, that's probably what spooked him again.

Galloway: Yeah, that's definitely what spooked him. It's going to be a black Mustang, real, real, real dark windows, ah, and a tinted windshield.

Leoce: Yeah, that was brand new, I could tell by the tail lights.

Galloway: Yeah, it's got the LED gills and the headlights in the front too, so he almost ate it turning down, ah, that dead end on Kingston, so.

Leoce: Always a shame if they don't.

Galloway: It's okay, I don't think he realized that my car is actually keeping up with him, so.

Leoce: Ah, that's three cars in a matter of minutes.

Galloway: Oh, were stirring up the nest tonight, my friend.

Carter: I told you, you better have this under control before I got here tonight.

Leoce: Carter, you not, oh, you are working now. Get down here.

Carter: I'm coming; I had to put my vest on.

Leoce: Cleared a brand new black Mustang, brand new red Mustang and a brand new, silver Chevy Malibu. All fleeing from us right here and the only tag we got was off with the silver Chevy Malibu. Sierra-0-9, Sierra-0-9-9 Uniform-India. S09.

Carter: Where's the last time you saw him?

Leoce: Well, the black Mustang fled across, ah, went south bound on 34 from 2-6. After picking up over at Shady Side, um, and the other two were lost right around Shady Side also. Everything's going around Shady Side tonight.

Carter: Isn't that amazing that's what we get and nobody ever seems to work that or be able to get anything from that place.

Leoce: It's all inside; it's an all inside job. You know that, man.

Galloway: No, it's not.

Galloway: Hey, that newer Impala, did it have HID's on it?

Leoce: You know, it had some, uh, bright lights, I don't know that they're LED; they're hot lights, ah, like the other fancy ones had.

Galloway: Yeah, that black Mustang had the, ah, HID lights on it, so, if I could have grabbed the tag, I would have built a Fleeing and Eluding, only so that way we have something to go with later.

Leoce: Ah, don't waste your time with that, just get us the, ah, tag number.

END OF TRANSMISSION - 7:02 Minutes

PART 2

Time: 2213-2224

Leoce: That Malibu had really dark tinted windows also.

Galloway: Yeah, I'm sure all three are from the same crew, so.

Leoce: Say Carter that, ah, silver Kia Optima I think is Code 10 from … (unintelligible) … or longer. It's back out here tonight too.

Carter: Nice.

Kimes: I'm on.

Carter: Your buddy was missing you Dave, so.

Kimes: Who's that?

Carter: Leoce.

Leoce: Oh, is that Carter Junior?

Kimes: Carter Junior is on vacation this week, I think.

Leoce: Planning his cruise for his wedding or whatever it was they were doing?

Carter: I told him not to do it.

Leoce: Spoken from experience.

Leoce: Hey, you guys are working weekends now with us, right?

Carter: Yeah.

Galloway: Gulfport looks like they're tracking something down here down 49th. All but north bound.

Leoce: Probably pushing it in our City and getting ready to call us.

Galloway: I don't know, but I tell you one thing, that new Charger when that thing goes by man, sounds mean as hell.

Carter: Have you guys checked the T-alley right there off of 15?

Leoce: No, 5-4.

Carter: Amazingly it's quiet.

Leoce: Yep, a couple of minutes of stirring the pot a little bit.

Leoce: We recovered the Avalon today too, I don't know if you guys are aware of that.

Kimes: Leoce, you better be careful what you do down there, you'll get yourself suspended or fired if they call, if they get the NAACP involved.

Leoce: I'm not lucky enough to get fired; they won't do that to me. That would make me happy.

Kimes: I'm staying north of Central, unless I get a call down there.

Leoce: You going up to the 90's now too?

Kimes: I'm thinking about it.

Kimes: At least you won't have to worry about getting suspended or fired by working up this way, ‘cause nobody is going to complain on ‘ya up here.

Kimes: There's nothing for the upper levels to be scared of on this side of the street.

Leoce: I don't know which one I want to go after now. I have a silver Mazda or a silver Hyundai going south on 4-6 now.

Galloway: 4-6 from where I'm at on Child's Park, on 4-3. 11-4-3.

Leoce: Silver Hyundai went out to 15, I don't have eyes on that anymore; I'm tracking the Mazda, west on 13 and then quickly north on 4-7 out of my sight. … Kimes this may come north of Central for ‘ya.

Kimes: I'm here; I'm like at 1 and 49, waiting on it.

Voice: Get out the catchers' mitt.

Kimes: Of course I don't want to put myself in harm's way.

Carter: You just have to get run over.

Galloway: If you do, don't defend yourself.

Kimes: That's probably what it is, you need to you got to get run over first, get drugged by the car, before you can start popping off shots.

Leoce: Yeah, I think you justified if you shooting from under the car.

Kimes: Yeah, like up through the floorboards.

Galloway: Unless the car stopped, because it's high centered on your body, then it's technically not moving.

Carter: Rob, you still got that Mazda?

Leoce: Yeah, I'm laughing now, he pulled into a house, it lives there.

Galloway: Hey, what color was your Impala from before?

Galloway: Was it an Impala or was it a, ah, Malibu?

Leoce: Brand new Malibu, silver, ah, Sierra-0-9-9-Uniform-India.

Galloway: Yeah, it went down to 13 from ah, 4-7.

Galloway: Um, I can't, trying to turn around, but going to be gone by the time I get.

Carter: You said, west bound on 13th from 4-7?

Galloway: 26.

Leoce: I'm on, I'm at 13-46, I don't see it. That was an older Malibu, that wasn't it. A new model, brand new, got the, ah, like Camaro tail lights, the, ah, squares.

Galloway: Okay the squared-off tail lights, I thought it was the round one, my bad.

Kimes: Hey, Carter, we got 5 tonight.

Carter: We're stacked.

Kimes: Actually that's 5 all week.

Carter: I thought it was going to be 6, who's not here?

Kimes: Dixon's off the rest of the week.

Carter: So, he came in worked last night and is off the rest of the week?

Kimes: Yep.

Leoce: Makes you guys feel any better, we only have 11 all weekend.

Kimes: I'm sure before, ah, before the end of the week, one of our other 90's units will call in.

Leoce: Well, if they're without their work, wife or husband, I'm sure.

Carter: Yeah, it's like clock-work so it never fails.

Leoce: Do you think they share Chinese food on their days off too?

Carter: I wouldn't doubt it.

Leoce: Mike, did you check that alley?

Carter: Yeah, there was nothing in there, there was an older Saturn, silver Saturn parked in there, but that's normally there.

Leoce: Hey, guys, I don't know if anybody's west on 15, from 40th, ah, looked like an Optima, maybe it wasn't, possibly with the fog lamps out – break.

Leoce: Um, just turned around now, I can't see over the hump in front of Shady Side, ah, I'm not sure if it's still, ah, west bound.

Carter: All right, I'm at 4-6.

Leoce: Yeah, I got no tail lights there in front of Shady Side, so, either way.

Carter: Yeah, I had to turn because I don't see it.

Leoce: I'm going to guess south at 43rd, maybe just west on 13 now from 4-3. No, take that back, I just past 14 based on a Cadillac that's west bound on 14, passing 44 now.

Carter: Yep, got it.

END OF TRANSMISSION – 5:09 Minutes

Part 3

Time: 2225-2245

Carter: It's up to 4-6 now, hang on. See if I can get up there and get a tag. 9-4-0-Yankee-Romeo-Zulu; 9-4-0-Yankee-Romeo-Zulu. South bound on 4-6.

Galloway: Rental.

Carter: Going back east on 15, east on 15. Can somebody pick it up?

Leoce: Yeah, I'll pick it up from behind ‘ya, if you want to go south.

Carter: All right, it's still continuing.

Carter: No other car behind it.

Leoce: Ah, I'm too deep here, hey looks like its passing 4-4, so it continued east bound, based on tails.

Galloway: 4-4 on 15.

Leoce: Yep, I got one for cover, trying to find some LED's, but it looks like it still continuing east bound past Shady Side now.

Galloway: Yeah, I just saw you pass me.

Leoce: Momentarily out of my sight.

Leoce: All right, I don't have it anymore.

Leoce: All right, you going north or south? From south 40th, Oh, Wait a minute. Looks like its high-tailing it south on Newark, south on Newark from 15; possibly up to 18 by now.

Carter: All right, I'll be on 18 in a second.

Leoce: I'm going to go back, ah; back west bound on 18, back west bound 18.

Carter: Nope, south bound, south bound on ah, 3-9.

Leoce: All right go with it; I'm going to go, ah, east.

Carter: Just went east bound; east bound 19.

Galloway: I'm east bound 18.

Carter: All right, just crossed over 3-8.

Leoce: Yep, I saw the blurp, up on … (unintelligible) …

Galloway: I'm cruising east 18 from 40.

Carter: North 3-7, north 3-7.

Leoce: Yep, he's gone.

Leoce: Guys, heads up, he's coming through that ruby up there on 15. Stay, stay out of it.

Voice: (unintelligible) …

Leoce: He's coming up on that trail; anybody's far north watch out.

Leoce: Go out to 3-4.

Leoce: He just went east on about 8, ah, 7.

Leoce: Out of my sight.

Leoce: And it looks like he possibly went north on 3-4 from me, and gone.

Carter: He definitely didn't want us behind him.

Leoce: Yep, game over on that one, maybe later.

Carter: I think everywhere he turned there was a patrol car.

Leoce: Yeah, he was definitely nervous.

Galloway: I like our plan.

Leoce: We tighten the box, make it rebel.

Galloway: Yeah, but we gotta all try and operate like within the same area.

Leoce: Not easy, but once they start feeling that noose tightening up around the neck. That's number four in less than 20 minutes.

Galloway: I tell you what; it's definitely making things uncomfortable for people around here.

Leoce: Hey, Carter, did you see that car that's parked in the Shady Side parking lot there with his park lights on him?

Carter: No, I'm headed back that way now, um, I'm 15-34.

Galloway: I just noticed that, Leoce.

Leoce: Yeah, it's been there for a little bit of time now.

Galloway: What do you want to do, want to do a jump-out?

Leoce: Um, I'm going to come up through the alley south of it, see if I can at least get a make on that thing. I don't know if it belongs there or what, it's been parked for a little a bit of time now.

Leoce: Now I'm coming up to the alley now.

Galloway: All right, you got me north bound on, north of you on 15.

Carter: I got 15-37.

Leoce: Ah, the guy's standing right by it, he lives at the house, going in and out of the garage.

Leoce: Actually a brand new Volkswagen Jetta.

Galloway: Brand new rental.

Leoce: You see, right up against the, ah, garage there.

Carter: Dave, get your pontoons it's starting to rain.

Kimes: Yup.

Leoce: It's ridiculous, saw enough rain today.

Leoce: What's the rule, ah, never feed them after midnight and whatever you do, never get them wet.

Carter: Hey, Rob, I don't know if you guys been watching 9-46, right there, the, ah, northeast corner. Here lately, there's been a younger crowd hanging out there, sitting out by the sidewalk dealing.

Leoce: Yeah, I saw that today. I saw three young guys out there today.

Carter: Yeah, Dave noticed it, ah, probably two weeks ago now. The crowd's getting a lot younger right there.

Leoce: Yeah, there's a few out there right now, maybe they ah.

Leoce: Ah, 22 it, I thought it would be better; it's not going to be.

Leoce: Last time I was at that house, the, ah, the guy that owns it, it's his nephew that brings all his, ah, his friends over.

Carter: Yeah, Pops. He acts like he doesn't know what's going on, but he does.

Leoce: Anybody in an area, that's not raining?

Kimes: 5 and 34, it's not raining up here.

Carter: Where did this come from Leoce? It wasn't even raining this hard a minute ago.

Leoce: I don't know, I'm still laughing listening to Kimes where he's at.

Kimes: Actually, it's not raining north of Central; I think the dark clouds just hanging over down there.

Galloway: No, it's not raining at 22-49, I'm just saying, I mean I am in Gulfport though.

Leoce: That's like the north side.

Kimes: Actually there's not a single cloud up here, matter of fact.

Leoce: You doing a rain dance up there or something?

Kimes: That I am.

Kimes: Hey, Carter, your Dad's up here at 17 and 34th; no shirt, no shoes, just like he used to.

Carter: That must be your Daddy from Georgia.

Kimes: Well, the guy used to hop out of the bushes every morning when he used to wake up.

Leoce: Is he in the grass, looking for change again?

Kimes: Yeah, he used to sleep in the bushes in front of this car dealership at 25 and 34, over here, but now he's just out wandering around.

Leoce: There's a Range Rover parked behind Twin Brooks.

Carter: Did you say it was a new red Mustang?

Leoce: Yep.

Carter: Convertible or Hardtop?

Leoce: The first is convertible and if you're at the one over there by 10-46, can't confirm if that was it or not. It's probably it.

Carter: You want the tag off of this one?

Leoce: Nah, I didn't get the tag, what is it?

Carter: 7-5-0-Victor-Juliet-Gulf.

Leoce: A rental.

Carter: If I was a betting man, I'd say that was it.

Leoce: Yeah, it was racing that silver Malibu down 15.

END OF TRANSMISSION — 6:20 Minutes

Community leaders: St. Pete police investigation confirms our fears 11/08/13 [Last modified: Saturday, November 9, 2013 5:44pm]

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