CLEARWATER — It's been a little over a year since Anthony "Tony" Holloway came back to this city to take the reins of the Police Department he had served for more than two decades.
It's been a busy year filled with challenges, but by and large, community leaders think Holloway has proved he's got the mettle to lead.
"I give him an A for the first year," said community activist and Clearwater native Jonathan Wade.
Wade said Holloway is a good listener who has shown he's committed to starting programs that address some of the social ills that lead to crime.
Shelley Kuroghlian, president of the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition, agreed that Holloway has proved himself to be responsive to community needs. She applauded his decision to keep downtown Clearwater's team of bicycle officers, which she credits with reducing drugs and prostitution that have long plagued the East Gateway area.
"This is a guy who knows the city," she said. "I think he certainly has the respect of the people who work for him and he appears to be very fair, to me."
During his nearly 22-year career in Clearwater, Holloway rose through the ranks to become the city's first black police captain. He started as a patrol officer in 1986 and worked in Countryside and Clearwater Beach. He was assigned to fight drugs in North Greenwood, where he reportedly proved himself to be tough but fair, personable but unabashed about telling it like it is.
In 1989, he was named the city's Outstanding Police Officer for his undercover narcotics work during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic.
He was eventually promoted to lieutenant and then captain, leading the patrol division. He left in 2007 to become chief in Somerville, Mass., near Boston, but was lured back to Clearwater when former Chief Sid Klein retired in February 2010.
Into the fire
Holloway came into a city facing budget constraints and a discussion about whether it should disband its Police Department and let the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office take over. The City Council voted down that idea.
"I think Tony, first of all, walked into a very difficult situation. Replacing a chief who had been there for 27 years is never easy. You can experience the Bear Bryant syndrome," said Mayor Frank Hibbard. "On top of that, dealing with the potential consolidation with the Sheriff's Office and just the overall budget issues, he's exceeded my expectations."
Observers have noticed that Holloway has at times seemed unpolished or unprepared when answering questions at City Council meetings.
"I think Tony's doing a better job there," Hibbard said. "He's more comfortable in his skin now, with the presentations."
In the past year, Holloway has implemented several new initiatives. He first took officers out of their cruisers and put them on the streets in an effort to bridge the gap between police and citizens. He says the face-to-face contact has helped officers get a better handle on problems and has generated tips about crimes.
Perhaps his most innovative endeavor came with the creation of a new crime analysis unit tasked with tracking crime trends. The unit uses a computer program produced by the city's information technology team and police Maj. Mark Teunis. It allows them to map crimes and send that information to officers in their cruisers.
Hibbard called the technology "cutting edge" and said he's interested in selling the software to other law enforcement agencies. "I think it's innovative enough that other departments would be interested in utilizing it, and it might be a revenue source for our department."
Spend a little time with Holloway, and he'll inevitably come around to his primary philosophies, the "three E's" — evaluate problems in the community, educate residents about services and public safety issues, and enforce laws.
Chief on the beat
Holloway hasn't forgotten the years he spent on patrol or as an undercover narcotics detective. He continues to make traffic stops and is often at the scene of active crime investigations. Holloway doesn't take over the scene, choosing instead to observe and check in with officers to better understand the situation.
While he says he stays so involved in day-to-day enforcement as a "learning tool" to see where the department needs improvement, a spark in his eyes tells a different story: after 25 years in law enforcement, he still loves being a cop.
Holloway is poised to re-launch a marine unit that was disbanded in the late 1980s to patrol waterways during peak boating season, holidays and special events. A $48,000 boat was purchased with forfeiture funds and didn't require the hiring of any more officers, he said.
Holloway made the decision after he was approached by officers who said their hands were tied on enforcing boating safety because they lacked the means to be on the water.
"They sold me on my three E's," he said.
Over the past year, Holloway said, he has focused on four interconnected issues that can threaten city morale: burglaries, robberies, drugs and prostitution. Crime rates fell in each area, with an overall reduction in crime by 9 percent in 2010 compared to the previous year.
Holloway acknowledged that crime statistics don't tell the whole story. But he uses the data, along with information from his rank and file, to try to understand underlying causes.
He's working on ways to cut his budget — a challenge that's being played out at police forces across the nation.
And he's focusing on his next initiative: trying to help troubled youths ages 13 to 17 turn themselves around before they end up in the judicial system.