NAACP reacts after St. Pete police repurpose funding, step back from non-violent calls

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The local NAACP is expected to give a reaction after the St. Pete police announced Thursday that it was creating a new division for the department to respond to non-violent calls.

St. Pete police will lose $3,125,000 in federal grant funding that would have gone toward paying for 25 new officers to respond to such calls, and an additional $3,800,000 the city had earmarked in matching funds required by the grant. The city will now instead use those funds to pay for this new service.

The new Community Assistance Liaison division will handle a number of matters such as:

  • Suicide crisis
  • Mental health crisis
  • Mental Health Transport
  • Disorderly intoxication
  • Drug overdose
  • Intoxicated person
  • Disorderly juvenile/truancy
  • Disorderly Juvenile at Elementary Schools
  • Panhandling
  • Homeless complaints
  • Neighborhood dispute

“We’re asked sometimes to help someone raise their kid or someone who has a mental health issue. Yes we go to a lot of training, but not enough, we’re not experts in that,” said St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway.

Holloway also said his officers need additional training in:

  • Increase de-escalation training from the current one time a year to two times a year formal training and informal training with a simulator.
  • Increase self-defense tactics training from the current one time a year to two times a year so that officers have more options than reaching for weapons.
  • Fair and impartial policing training for civilian employees of the police department.
  • Additional training for recruits. Recruits already receive cultural competency training with community members. They will also have to return after a year for additional training on cultural competency.
  • Add a civilian to SPPD’s hiring board. This individual will come from the NAACP, Urban League, Faith Leaders and Leadership St. Petersburg.
  • Park, Walk, and Talks, which is when officers park their patrol cars and walk the areas they patrol to get to know the people they serve, will go from one hour per week to two hours per week.

Members of the local delegation of the NAACP met with the police department Thursday evening and plan to address their stance on the new measures Friday morning.

The group said in an emailed news release that topics of discussion include:

• The inclusion of civilians from the community on the police recruit hiring panel
• The change of policy involving the three basic tenets: Respect – Accountability – Integrity, to Loyalty – Honor – Integrity.
• Recruitment and training of new officers in a manner that eliminates bias
• Disciplinary consequences for illegal use of force
• Mandatory use of body cameras

You can watch the press conference live on WFLA.com.

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