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Experts set to review St. Petersburg's fatal police shootings

ST. PETERSBURG — After losing three officers in the line of duty this year, the St. Petersburg Police Department today will hold a post-shooting review to analyze its policies, tactics and training.

Police Chief Chuck Harmon promised to convene such a board, bringing together law enforcement commanders, trainers and experts from across Tampa Bay. They will review the events that led to the city's first officer casualties in 30 years and the aftermath.

St. Petersburg canine Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger were fatally wounded on Jan. 24 during a two-hour gunbattle with a fugitive hiding in an attic. Yaslowitz was shot trying to arrest the fugitive; Baitinger was shot trying to rescue Yaslowitz.

Officer David S. Crawford was patrolling downtown when he was fatally shot Feb. 21, according to police, when he tried to question a 16-year-old prowler. They arrested a teenager in the case 24 hours later.

The discussion will not be open to the media or the public. But the police chief and other participants will speak afterward.

Among the topics that may be discussed: the tactics police should use when a suspect may be hiding in a ceiling, the massive manhunt that led police to the teen suspect in Crawford's death and whether the city should require officers to wear bullet-resistant vests.

Like many Tampa Bay agencies, St. Petersburg requires officers to wear vests only in high-risk situations. Others have mandatory-wear policies.

Crawford was not wearing his vest when he was shot several times in the torso, but police officials have yet to publicly explain why. Yaslowitz and Baitinger were wearing their vests, but those would not have shielded them from the fatal wounds they suffered.

The chief has said that one issue that won't be discussed is Mayor Bill Foster's decision to quickly raze what was left of the house of fugitive Hydra Lacy Jr. Lacy fatally wounded the officers on Jan. 24, then was later killed in the ensuing shootouts with police.

Experts set to review St. Petersburg's fatal police shootings 06/15/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 10:16pm]
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