1. Archive

"We have lost a good police officer'

It was with great sadness that I read the story of Officer Jeffery Tackett's murder. I'd like to mention some things that weren't covered in your story.

I lived in Belleair for two years when I was an artist-in-residence at the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center. I often worked late into the night in the studio and Jeff would stop by to make sure that everything was all right. He was quick to make a joke and take one. He even told a few on himself.

One night a friend stopped by my house to visit and left the hatchback of her car open as she had a load of manure for her garden. This left the interior light on. As Jeff was patroling, he saw the light and pulled in because he was concerned that the battery would be drained if left too long. "By the way, your registration has expired," he said as he was leaving.

We have lost a good police officer and a warm and gentle human being. My condolences to his family and fellow officers.

Tom McCarthy, Gulfport

As the father of a St. Petersburg police officer, I was shocked at the senseless killing of Officer Jeffery Tackett in the line of duty. After many wasted years of appeals, as the killer's execution looms, I would like to propose a way for the state to not only save hundreds of dollars for an execution but gain thousands for the policeman's family.

Award the job of executioner to the highest bidder. I'll open the bidding at $5,000.

Lanier I. Quinn Jr., Clearwater

Re: Officer was killed with his own gun, June 15.

Anyone feel a little guilty because we can pay a football player, or other athlete or entertainer, millions of dollars a year while we cannot give a peace officer a proper radio or a companion on patrol so that he does not need to worry about dying, waiting for a backup?

I feel shame and anger.

John M. McNamara, St. Petersburg

I write this as a result of the anger and sorrow I feel with regard to the tragic loss of Officer Jeffery Tackett of the Belleair Police Department, and the circumstances surrounding his death.

While there were "reasons" given as to why this occurred, in my opinion, the main cause of his death was neglect on the part of the management of the Belleair Police Department to provide this officer with the support he needed. If there is a need for the protection of one officer, there is also the need of that officer for support of at least one other. It is irrelevant what went on at the dispatch desk, it is irrelevant what any other department was doing at the time this occurred. If even one additional officer had been on duty that evening, he would have heard the communications between Officer Tackett and the dispatcher and, realizing the urgency of the situation, could have responded as backup immediately.

Having another officer on duty may not necessarily have prevented this tragedy (I realize the wound sustained was fatal), but it would have increased the chances of minimizing the outcome and, at the very least, the officer could have been there with Officer Tackett during a time when he needed to be comforted and held and talked to _ instead of lying alone in the dark, wondering if help was on its way, thinking of his family asleep at home. At least he wouldn't have been alone when he passed away.

Stephanie L. Coggins, Dunedin

In regard to the murder of Officer Jeffery Tackett of the Belleair Police Department, I might have missed it but I don't think any organization is screaming for civil rights violation or considering this a hate crime. I'm sure before this is over, your paper will be publishing childhood pictures of the murderer and insinuating this action was the result of a turbulent childhood or confusion on Fathers' Day.

It is ironic that this happened while the Pinellas County Community Development Block Grant Program is forcing municipalities to have a policy of "no excessive force."

As a former police officer in this county, I believe I can speak for the law enforcement officers when I say that the reason crime is so rampant in this area is that the police officers are unable to perform their duties due to restrictions imposed upon them which are to protect the criminals.

I have no doubt that Jenkins will be found guilty of Officer Tackett's murder and probably will be sentenced to death, but he will probably cost the taxpayers millions of dollars for court expenses and legal fees and, if executed, will survive his victim by 10-15 years. This is not justice.

Lawrence Stephany, North Redington Beach

Law enforcement has certainly changed in the past nine years. For one thing, crime has escalated and the police force has obviously de-escalated.

Nine years ago I went to my father-in-law's mobile home in Largo to spend the night, along with my daughter and her husband. My father-in-law was up north but had given me permission to use his mobile home. It was late, after 11 p.m., and there were no lights in any of the mobile homes near his.

We went in and after retiring, a voice came over a loud speaker: "Come out in front. This is the Largo City Police Canine Patrol."

When I went out, flood lights came on from various positions in his yard and I was surrounded by six police officers and a dog. It was obviously a slow night for the Largo police. After answering their questions, they apologized and one of them asked me if I had heard them. I said no, and he said, "We did good then."

We have had a lot of laughs over this incident through the years, but even a small portion of backup like that could have made a difference to Jeffery Tackett and other officers who have needed help.

Donna Taylor, St. Petersburg

What's the problem?

Re: Home Depot to replace 2 stores, May 15.

I am a resident in south St. Petersburg and I frequently shop at Home Depot. The merchandise and service there is excellent; I have no complaint about either. However, I read in the St. Petersburg Times that Home Depot was moving to a new location. I was happy to know that Home Depot had considered Central Plaza as a new site. The writer also stated that Central Plaza was ideally located with easy access off I-275 and U.S. 19. So what is the problem? It seems Home Depot conducted a survey among its customers and concluded that although Central Plaza was an ideal location, it would not be the site. The reason for this was because those surveyed said that they would be afraid to shop in south St. Petersburg.

My first reaction was one of anger. Then I thought of organizing a boycott by all "southsiders," but I realized that would be as ignorant as those who responded in such a manner as stated above.

Instead, I'm venting by writing this letter and asking these questions:

1. Just how many people were surveyed by Home Depot and who were they?

2. Were any of these people south St. Petersburg residents?

3. Is anyone aware of how much profit Home Depot generates from the residents in south St. Petersburg?

There are many businesses that have survived in south St. Petersburg: Scarritt Motors, Downing Forge, Cox Lumber Co., Lerner Shops, Walgreens, and the newest business in the area, Scott Buick, just to name a few.

Perhaps if other businesses establish themselves in south St. Petersburg and the downtown area, we could become a model for other cities to follow. St. Petersburg is a wonderful place to live, and some of the city's finest people live on the south side.

I know that Home Depot has chosen a location for its new store, but I hope that some other company will take the initiative and revitalize Central Plaza and downtown St. Petersburg.

Betty J. Nelson, St. Petersburg

Parents and children

Re: The silent loss, June 14.

Thank you for Leslie Dreyfous' beautiful presentation of the bonding between parents and their children, and the deep sense of loss experienced by parents when a child dies during pregnancy. As we have pursued the national debate over the lives of our unborn children, it is easy to become wrapped up in political and technical issues, and to forget the human dimension of this question.

The need for friends and family to support the parents when the loss of an unborn child occurs is not always evident to those who have not experienced this tragedy. The practical advice to those of us who don't always know what to say was very helpful.


R. Watts, Beverly Hills

Freedom Forum defended

Re: Foundation's free-spending ways affect all taxpayers, May 3, by Neal R. Peirce, in which he criticized the Freedom Forum, a charitable foundation, for the way we use our resources. Those resources are produced by $700-million in investments and are used to advance the cause of free speech, free press and free spirit worldwide.

We at the Freedom Forum don't agree with Peirce, but we strongly support his right to express an opinion, even when it's wrong.

A foundation can put its money in grants and contributions or it can support operating programs, or both. In the past, the Freedom Forum spent its money primarily on grants, but is moving away from relying solely on grants in order to better support important operating programs.

Last year, for example, the Freedom Forum spent $20-million on grants, $19-million on operating programs (including the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University in New York and the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.) and built a $5-million center _ a total of $44-million _ and had administrative expenses of $6-million.

Journalism education and professional development are still major thrusts of the Freedom Forum ($4.5-million last year) and have not been abandoned, as Peirce suggested.

Peirce also didn't like the functioning of our board of trustees, a hard-working board which provides close, regular oversight and valuable advice to Freedom Forum officers. Because we support free speech, free press and free spirit objectives worldwide, the trustees sometimes make fact-finding trips to other countries. Those foreign trips are vital in keeping our trustees abreast of events in countries in which we conduct, or are considering, programs. However, there has never been a trustees' meeting in Rio de Janeiro, as Peirce claimed, nor did the trustees meet in New Orleans during the NCAA tournament, another untrue Peirce allegation.

The Freedom Forum also made a grant of $245,000 to ex-hostage Terry Anderson of the Associated Press to help him re-enter a productive life after his long ordeal; we don't apologize for that, or for our efforts to sustain the building of press freedoms in Russia, neither of which met with Peirce's approval. We spent $2.3-million on our international programs last year, much of it to aid the emerging free press in Russia and East and Central Europe.

Peirce also seemed to suggest that the resources of foundations and charities in our country might be "taxed away" and spent instead by government bureaucrats. It's fine, of course, to debate how creative foundations are. Free minds can always do that. But _ tax away foundations and charities? A bad idea.

As for Peirce's charge that we engage in breast-beating about the First Amendment, well, I guess he's right. We do, and we're proud of it. It's amazing that he doesn't seem to understand why.

Jerry W. Friedheim, Vice President/Public Affairs,

The Freedom Forum, Arlington, Va.

Assault on civil rights

Re: David Caton's witch hunt, June 14.

Thank you very much for your outstanding editorial regarding David Caton's despicable attempts to deprive some of the population of its civil rights. Surely, giving everyone his or her civil rights does not take these rights away from others.

Attorney General Bob Butterworth and Deputy Attorney General Pete Antonacci were so right in treating Caton's attack as the hateful witch hunt it is. I sincerely hope the rest of Florida's population views this horrible hate campaign as an assault on everyone's rights and refuse to sign the American Family Association's discriminating petition.

Donna J. Harris, Holmes Beach

"Unskilled labor'

From all of the Clinton-bashing I have seen lately, my only comment is this: Fault-finding is the most common form of unskilled labor. Let the chips fall where they may!

Lottie Baugh, Largo

Still dancing

Re: Two steps to stardom, June 4.

Our group of line dancers resents the remarks made by Steve Kaufman that "line dancing is overrated" and that "we get in the way." We without partners get the chance to still dance and go out and enjoy music and bands at functions.

You never know when you will be in the situation of being alone. Line dancing has been a great outlet for me and I now teach it at Highland Lakes, where there are a lot of us "singles" _ and what a good time we have! We don't get in the way or bother anyone except to really have a good time and enjoy ourselves.

I hope Steve Kaufman and others who perhaps feel as he does will relent a little, accept us and let us enjoy our dancing as much as they do theirs.

Lucille C. Esmon, Palm Harbor

Snoring as a risk factor

Over the years I have read with interest and generally concurred with articles in the St. Petersburg Times that discuss the problem of snoring. Recent articles in the Times have emphasized that snoring is a significant marker for illness and a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. This potentially serious problem is not funny. Just ask the bed partner of a loud snorer.

The article, Snoring as a survival skill, seemed to negate the excellent information regarding snoring that the Times had published previously. It is preposterous to suggest that snoring somehow would improve survival. There is clearcut medical evidence that snorers as a group have decreased memory concentration and that snoring may significantly affect daytime alertness. Surely, anyone with these deficits would find it harder to survive. Snorers had double the incidence of high blood pressure and are at increased risk of heart attack and stroke, if the snoring is a symptom of a very serious illness called sleep apnea.

Individuals with sleep apnea snore loudly, experience long pauses in their breathing during sleep, awaken repetitively through the night with gasps and snorts to arousal. In the morning they feel unrefreshed and experience daytime sleepiness which may be profound enough to produce significant disability.

Sleep indeed is one of the most vulnerable times of the day. Snoring does not decrease our vulnerability but is a marker of serious medical importance that decreases our human potential and survival. To describe snoring as an ancient protective device that has gone sour with time appears to be ill advised. If you snore and awaken tired in the morning, please don't believe that you are in an improved position. Ask your doctor.

Neil T. Feldman, M.D., St. Petersburg

Sleep Disorders Center, St. Petersburg

"Radical' writing?

Guinier's writings reveal ideas that are not at all radical, June 5, by William T. Coleman Jr., indicates that the quotation "tyranny of the majority" is not Guinier's, but rather "is a statement by conservative columnist George Will, writing about the right of senators to filibuster." The implication seems to be that Guinier is not so radical since she quotes from a conservative columnist. That ignores the fact that Will is a radical conservative.

I can only hope that Will gave credit for the phrase to Lord Acton who wrote in 1907:

"The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds by force or fraud, in carrying elections."

It is the use of laws such as the Voting Rights Act to carry the election of individuals not representing the majority or the use of the filibuster to frustrate the will of the majority that leads directly to the idea of "tyranny of the minority." An Encyclopedia Britannica discussion of Lord Acton says in part:

"English historian and philosopher of freedom, was one of the first to lay bare the tyrannical tendencies of the modern statehe saw the threats to liberty contained in democracy and socialism, and the evils of power when concentrated in the modern state. A stern critic of racialism and nationalism, his liberalism was rooted in ChristianityIf democracy could not restrain itself, liberty would be lost. The test of a country's freedom was the amount of security enjoyed by minorities."

In his day Lord Acton's writing must have sounded at least a little radical. Today his writing sounds a lot like Lani Guinier.

Palmer O. Hanson Jr., Largo

Dialogue triumphs

On behalf of the University of South Florida and the greater Tampa Bay community, thank you for your extensive coverage of the play Race at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

The play is more than a USF theater department production. It's also a much needed vehicle for communication on the sensitive issue of race in America. Thanks to Race, the first-ever stage adaptation of the Studs Terkel book, there is at least one forum where dialogue triumphs over diatribe. The bay area, buffeted by its share of racial controversies and the venue for the trial of those charged with burning Christopher Wilson, needs Race, the play _ not race, the tinderbox issue.

And thanks to the local media, especially the Times _ specifically performing arts critic John Fleming, columnist Mary Jo Melone, book editor Margo Hammond and staff writer Carl McClendon _ Race will continue its TBPAC run this week. That's a community service that transcends the theater and this university.

Joe O'Neill, USF Media Relations Manager,

University of South Florida, Tampa

Protecting endangered species

Re: Gorillas may get new neighbors, June 10.

I can't imagine anyone disliking any attempt to preserve an animal, let alone a panda. Yet, as duly reported in the St. Petersburg Times, George Schaller with the Wildlife Conservation Society expressed such a sentiment. Groups such as his already have placed many limitations on attempts to preserve many species. And just like the plight of the Florida Panther, the panda will likely be the victim of the political struggle over animal rights.

If they are truly interested in preserving endangered species, they should stop hindering bona-fide attempts to continue bloodlines by dropping their objections to captive breeding programs, practice the ideas they support by pledging their own fortunes, and stop wasting the state and federal governments' time and money by the cessation of the lawsuits they file.

Mr. Schaller suggests that anyone interested only in helping the panda would go over to China to help them. My question to Mr. Schaller is: Why haven't you taken your own advice?

John M. Lowe, Seminole

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