Police union says inquiry into St. Petersburg promotions didn't go far enough

Published Jun. 5, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — The union that represents most of the city's police officers wants a more thorough investigation into the recent promotion process.

The review into the promotions ordered by Mayor Rick Kriseman only sparked more questions instead of providing clarity, said Michael Krohn, executive director of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

Investigators told Kriseman they discovered several anomalies during their research into the testing experience and grading, which took place at the beginning of the year.

But they stopped short of drawing any conclusions about what they found, because they were not contracted by the city to perform such an analysis.

That was enough to give Kriseman peace of mind and prompt him to order that the promotions, which had been on hold for months, should go forward.

"It's like reading halfway through a book and not getting the last few pages," Krohn said this week. "Why isn't the city investigating further? Why didn't we get any answers?"

Among the issues the report found was that there were whispers heard during the testing and significant differences between some candidate's scores on the written and oral portions of the exam, which in some cases significantly affected their final ranking.

Specifically, Krohn said he was troubled by a part in the report that said a few of the candidates gave nearly verbatim correct answers to some questions.

Krohn said the fact that someone gives a near-perfect answer does not mean anyone cheated, but that "until it's further investigated, we'll never know."

"They've stopped short here —why?" he said.

When the Tampa Bay Times asked the mayor's office the same question last week, Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby said it was because city officials consulted with the reviewers and determined a full and technical audit wasn't needed.

But Kirby said the mayor also knows the promotions process needs to change.

Kriseman is working with Interim Chief Dave DeKay on that, he said, and will work with the new chief when one is hired.

"I don't think we have anything left to say," Kirby said Wednesday. "The conclusion was that there was no evidence of cheating. … The mayor is doing only what he can, which is to address those anomalies."

Looming is the choice Kriseman will make soon about leadership in the department.

Both internal candidates, assistant chiefs Luke Williams and Melanie Bevan, played a role in the promotions. Bevan steered the process and planning, and Williams would have had input as well.

But it was Williams who attended a community meeting in March in which allegations about the test, promotions and other racial tension at the department were discussed.

Several union members have said they want Bevan as police chief. Williams has a large block of support, too, especially in the black community.

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Kriseman is expected to announce the top finalists for the job soon.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at, (727) 893-8643 or on Twitter @cornandpotatoes.