Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg may revisit police body armor rules after officer's death

ST. PETERSBURG — Officer David S. Crawford wasn't wearing a bullet-resistant vest Monday night when a gunman shot him several times in the chest.

It's unclear whether a vest would have saved the veteran police officer, who was shot at close range.

"Would it have averted tragedy? It may or may not have," said police Chief Chuck Harmon, who added that while department policy requires officers to have a vest, it's at their discretion whether to wear it.

Body armor is "highly encouraged," the policy states, but required only when officers face "high-risk" situations.

"(The policy) is worth looking at again," Harmon said during a Tuesday news conference. "I'm not going to say David did anything wrong."

The vests, which can be bulky, are uncomfortable, especially in warm weather, Harmon said.

After the briefing, at least three St. Petersburg City Council members said the vest policy should be reconsidered.

"It's a policy I'd change today," said Karl Nurse. "It seems that if you're outside of headquarters, you should have a vest on. As we've learned, routine work can turn deadly within seconds."

"I understand … that it's hot to wear it," said Jeff Danner. "But most of the officers I've seen have them on. I'm not sure if that's something you can mandate, but we should look at it."

"We don't mandate it, and perhaps that should be revisited," said Wengay Newton. "But we still don't know if it would have mattered."

The policy was tweaked for the department's undercover surveillance unit after two officers were shot while arresting robbery suspects in 2008 and 2009. The new policy said those officers "should" wear vests but stopped short of a mandate. St. Petersburg reimburses officers about $600 for a new vest every two to three years.

Vests aren't infallible.

On Jan. 24, St. Petersburg police Sgt. Thomas Baitinger died after Hydra Lacy Jr. shot through an attic floor at an angle that allowed a bullet to pierce his body without hitting his vest.

In August 2009, Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts was wearing a vest but died after a bullet burrowed into his shoulder at a downward angle and pierced an exposed area below his armpit.

St. Petersburg isn't alone in making vests optional. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, for instance, issues vests but also leaves it up to patrol deputies to decide whether to wear them, said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

Tampa police also aren't required to wear a vest on a regular basis — unless they know they are going into a high-risk situation, said Lt. Ruben Delgado.

Times staff writers Waveney Ann Moore and Meg Laughlin contributed to this report. Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg may revisit police body armor rules after officer's death 02/22/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 11:05am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Puerto Ricans in Tampa Bay wait with dread as Hurricane Maria approaches island

    Hurricanes

    TAMPA — As Hurricane Maria swirled in the Atlantic Ocean, Sarykarmen Rivera got a phone call from her parents in Puerto Rico. They had an ominous message.

    Sarykarmen Rivera sits for a portrait with a picture of herself and her family in her hometown of Guayama, Puerto Rico, while at the Univision studios in Tampa on Tuesday. Rivera's mother, father, and extended family are currently in Puerto Rico and she worries about their safety as Hurricane Maria approaches. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Early estimates peg Hurricane Irma damage at as much as $65B

    Banking

    The damage totals from Hurricane Irma are still being tallied, but early numbers are in: As of Tuesday, the storm is estimated to have caused between $42.5 billion and $65 billion of damage. That's according to a Tuesday release by Irvine, Calif.-based analytics company CoreLogic.

    Hurricane Irma is estimated to have caused up to $65 billion in damage, said analytics company CoreLogic. Pictured is 
Hermilo Munoz Castillo as wades down a flooded street to check on his home in southern Collier County, Fla. after Hurricane Irma passed. | [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Port Tampa Bay makes public/private commitment for $60 million expansion project

    Business

    TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay approved a public-private partnership agreement with four other entities to divvy up who will pay for a $60 million widening and extension of the Big Bend Channel.

    Port Tampa Bay approved a participation agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Transportation, Tampa Electric Company and Mosaic Company at the port's monthly board meeting on  Tuesday. Port Tampa Bay President & CEO Paul Anderson signs the agreement as Ram Kancharla; Port Tampa Bay's vice president of planning & development, Brandon Burch; project manager at United States Army Corps of Engineers, Lois Moore; of Alcalde and Fay and Charles Klug; Port Tampa Bay principal counsel, and Tim Murphy; deputy district engineer of the Army Corps., looks on. [Company handout]
  4. Hurricane Maria strengthens on way to Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

    Hurricanes

    An even stronger Hurricane Maria is moving steadily toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and is likely to still be a powerful category 5 storm when it arrives.

    [National Hurricane Center]
  5. Tampa Bay concert venues offer deals, take donations for Hurricane Irma victims

    Blogs

    After a week-plus of concert cancellations brought on by Hurricane Irma, the Tampa Bay music scene is ready to get back to work. And Irma is still front and center in everyone's minds.

    Victor Wainwright