Monday, May 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Priorities for St. Petersburg's next police chief

Given the extraordinary power that police are afforded in our society, Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman may make no greater decision during his first months in office than who will be St. Petersburg's next police chief. For 12 years the department has had the steady leadership of Chief Chuck Harmon, who is retiring. But recent events suggest the agency and city will benefit from a fresh set of eyes. Kriseman has wisely committed to conducting a national search for Harmon's replacement, scuttling a search run in-house that Mayor Bill Foster had initiated. Candidates for the job should come fully prepared to address several issues that need new focus, including:

Community relations. Residents in some of St. Petersburg's southern neighborhoods have increasingly complained that police on patrol there have a cavalier attitude, including speeding through neighborhoods and harassing residents. Radio transcripts released last week that led to the suspension of three officers and the resignation of another do nothing to dispel those assumptions. The next chief, along with Kriseman, needs to make rebuilding trust in the Midtown and Childs Park neighborhoods a priority, starting with demanding officers act professionally.

Police-involved homicides. Seven times so far this year, a St. Petersburg police officer has shot and killed a criminal suspect in the line of duty, compared with just one incident in 2012. At least four times the suspect was also mentally ill. Each individual case may be justified, but the next chief should revisit the department's ongoing officer training — particularly on dealing with the mentally ill — and press local and state elected leaders to provide additional community resources for the mentally ill.

Chase policy. In 2010, under Foster, the city weakened a long-standing ban that had prohibited officers from initiating high-speed chases except in the pursuit of violent suspects. Now chases are allowed for anyone accused of a "forcible felony," adding burglary and vehicular theft to the list. But such chases often put innocent bystanders at risk and aren't worth the cost. Kriseman has said he'll change the chase policy, and he'll need a police chief who appreciates why that's necessary.

Take-home cars. Even as the city diligently cut costs during the recent recession, one police officer perk was actually expanded. Foster agreed to let even patrol officers who lived out-of-county use their patrol cars — and city-paid fuel — for their commute of up to 40 miles. Foster and Harmon both initially resisted having a frank discussion about the cost of paying the gas for those officers living outside the city: $400,000 a year — or 16 percent of the department's fuel budget. The next chief shouldn't be so averse to exploring whether that's the best use of taxpayer resources.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the stateís 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice theyíve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Childrenís Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institutionís lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburgís 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18