Saturday, December 16, 2017
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: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17