Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ruth: Copping an attitude about Kriseman team's ideas

This didn't take long. Rick Kriseman had barely been fitted for his freshman mayoral beanie before hizzoner's transition team started getting incoming flak for being "not pro-law enforcement," which might also be construed as being accused of harboring pro-crime sentiments.

Apparently the brain trust, and by extension Kriseman himself, is flirting with being tagged sons and daughters of anarchy because of a series of recommendations the transition group submitted concerning the future of St. Petersburg's police and fire departments.

Among the proposals obviously designed to turn the streets into lawless chaos resembling Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, only with former mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford in the Tina Turner role, were things like requiring more training for cops and firefighters, consolidating jobs, re-evaluating the take-home policy for public safety vehicles, and installing GPS devices on patrol cars to better monitor the driving habits of officers. We're talking some really nihilistic mob rule stuff here.

So that probably explains why Michael Krohn, the executive director of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association, got his handcuffs in a wad, dismissing the transition group's conclusions and grumbling: "This was clearly written by a team of individuals who are not pro-law enforcement."

The transition group also proposed a change in leadership at the fire department in the wake of disclosures that firefighters were trading shifts willy-nilly with precious little oversight by fire Chief Jim Large. Perhaps in Krohn's view this might suggest that the Kriseman cabal is pro-arson, too.

Yep, no doubt the transition troublemakers, which included former St. Petersburg Assistant Police Chief Cedric Gordon, who retired last year after 30 years of service, sat around a table and plotted to reduce the city to Deadwood.

For Krohn to be taken seriously, which would require ridiculous amounts of gin, you would have to buy into the scenario that a group of citizens, including a veteran law enforcement officer, conspired to undermine the community's public safety because they weren't sufficiently "pro-law enforcement."

Krohn went further, arguing that the transition team endeavored to criminalize law enforcement officers. Is that so? Krohn thinks the Kriseman junta perceives cops as bad guys simply because of recommendations calling for better training, or saying a GPS system might better monitor officer driving habits?

Not pro-law enforcement? Is that so? Do you think Michael Krohn could be more hysterically over the top?

It is a considerable stretch of coherence to leap to the conclusion that a mayoral transition group somehow wants to turn over the mean streets of St. Petersburg to the Joker merely by offering suggestions to save money, improve professional standards, and safeguard the public from a small fraction of cops who sometimes think they are in the Mustang GT/Dodge Charger chase scene from Bullitt.

Krohn's rantings are not without political consequence. Mayors often find themselves courting the public safety community vote. And thus the misleading and irrational suggestion that Kriseman may be soft on evildoers, leading perhaps to arming police officers with only one bullet ala Deputy Barney Fife, could lead to a rocky relationship with the badges.

We will all agree that the city's first responders are a noble lot of men of women who put their lives at risk every day. But that status as public employees does not, and should not, exempt the police and fire departments from scrutiny to improve efficiencies and accountability.

To suggest that St. Petersburg's cops and firefighters get a free pass or that those who propose improvements are somehow not pro-law enforcement enough is a premeditated lack of common sense in the first degree.

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