Questions raised on 2 St. Pete chief finalists

St. Petersburg, Florida -- The city has narrowed the choice for its new police chief, one of the most important jobs in the community, to four candidates, but 10 Investigates has found some issues with two of the finalists.

One of the candidates is the assistant chief and has past problems, and the other is chief of a department in Arizona where there were severe problems before he got there.

However, critics complain that Jerry Geier, chief in Goodyear, Ariz., still has problems in the department allowing favorites to be promoted even after getting into trouble and firing those who aren't in his inner circle.

"Nobody had a chance with IA," said former office Tony Addison of the Internal Affairs department.

When it comes to those investigations, former officer Julio Iglesias said, "It's definitely a head hunt they eat their own."

And Addison agrees: "We do eat our own, we eat our own."

That's how these former officers in Goodyear, Ariz., describe the department headed by Geier who is a finalist for the top police post in St. Pete.

10 Investigates asked Geier, who was in town interviewing for the St. Petersburg job, if one of the reasons he wants this job is because there's some heat coming in his department. "Absolutely not, there's nothing there, there's nothing done wrong," he said.

Some would disagree as Geier places great faith in his assistant Chief Jeff Rogers.

10 Investigates reminded Geier that Rogers allegedly made a racist phone call while he was drunk, and the chief was asked, "He's still your assistant police chief we've had racial problems in the St. Petersburg department, so again how do you? "

Geier interrupted, saying, "That was eight years ago. OK, again he made a mistake he paid dearly for it."

While that incident happened before Geier was chief, he allows Rogers to actively be involved in Internal Affairs investigations even after Rogers destroyed a batch of IA records, including his own.

But Geier contends, "There comes a time when you have to get by that and move on."

Former Lt. Kim Celaya says, "I can't for the life of me wrap my mind around why they did this to me."

Celaya, the Goodyear police department's highest-ranking female officer, was fired after she had been punched in the face by her boyfriend.

In a recording of the Internal Affairs investigation you can hear that Geier blamed Celaya because the couple had been drinking.

"Bottom line is you put yourself in this place. You surrounded yourself by the wrong people," Geier said.

Al Beard thinks his ex-girlfriend was fired for dating him. "To me I took it as why you hanging around those black folks? You're a police officer you shouldn't be hanging with them," Beard said.

Geier denies that, saying, "I will not tolerate any kind of racial issues or any other issues and there have not been any."

However, Celaya has filed a wrongful association lawsuit against the police department.

There are also issues with Assistant St. Petersburg police Chief Melanie Bevan.

"I was in a room, we made a decision. Ultimately I was the leader that carried out that decision," she said of the decision to slash the tents of homeless people camped in the city back in January 2007.

"It happened, it was seven years ago, it was a dark day within the city and I'll never forget that, but I've learned from that, I've grown from that and I think we've all learned and grown from that."

She said an incident like the tent slashing could never occur again under her watch and Geier contends his critics are bringing up items that have happened in the past. And people deserve second chances.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who will make the final decision, believes in second chances. as we have reported in the past he says he has faith in his Chief of Staff Kevin King, who was arrested in 2001 when he was a substitute teacher and faced a charge of solicitation to commit a lewd and lascivious act and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.


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