Transition team recommends big changes at St. Pete PD - WFLA News Channel 8

Transition team recommends big changes at St. Pete PD

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Changes may be in sight for SPPD Changes may be in sight for SPPD
ST PETERSBURG, FL -

Newly appointed St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman has a lot of decisions to make soon.

On Friday, he was given a report from a civilian task force that suggested that big changes need to be made in how law enforcement is handled.

The six-page report was drafted by the Public Safety Transition Team.

The team consisted of a group of local leaders appointed by Kriseman to help him out as he took over for Mayor Bill Foster.

The team suggested that improvements need to be made in a variety of subjects from leadership to red light cameras.

The task force said St. Pete Fire Rescue has recently endured a lot of controversy over its job-swap policy and the St. Pete Police Dept has seen a large number of recent police officer-involved shootings.

"It is imperative that the city has the right people in place to properly lead these two crucial organizations. Both police and fire need new direction and leadership," the group wrote.

St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Chief Jim Large had plenty to say about the job swap issue.

"The article created a job swap controversy that doesn't exist. The hours reported on represent less than 4-percent of the hours analyzed by the (Tampa Bay) Times. The implication that the chief had no administrative oversight over these hours was absolutely false and gave the committee bad information," said Large.

"The committee has never contacted the department for any clarification. The hours and costs reflected in the article created innuendo. The fact is the city, department and taxpayers are not owed one minute or one dollar. Our current policy was within all state and federal laws. The mayor has these facts and the recommendations and will decide what he will or will not do with regard to the recommendations," he added.

The task force also said changes were needed at the St. Petersburg Police Department to address the high number of officer-involved shootings.

In 2010 there were eight officer-involved shootings, in 2011 there were eleven. The year 2012 saw eight police-involved shootings and in 2013 there were 17.

"With police officer-involved shootings at a record high, there may be an underlying systemic problem related to strategies, tactics, training, supervision, and leadership," said the team in the report.

The team suggested new leadership at the top and new training for its officers.

George Lofton is the president of the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association. He responded, "I guarantee you we're doing the best job we possibly can and we're probably in my opinion, doing it as well or if not better than a lot of areas around the state or country."

The Union represents the St. Petersburg police department and Lofton feels his fellow officers don't deserve to be blamed for the high number of shootings.

He said, "By all means, let's point fingers but let's point them at the right people. It's the bad guys, the felons that are causing those situations to happen."

Along with new leadership, the task force recommends research is needed to determine the proper amount of staffing for the police department.

The report also addressed red light cameras saying the top two cited infractions; right on red, and blink of an eye violations, are the least dangerous.

"It is recommended that the red light cameras be eliminated completely or eliminate the right on red and blink-of-an-eye violations."

Mayor Kriseman's spokesman said the mayor had not finished studying the report and was not ready to comment.

He said the mayor will review the recommendations and take them into consideration, but ultimately, he will have the final say.


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