St. Pete introduces new police chief

St. Petersburg, Florida -- St. Petersburg's new police chief is laying out his vision for the future.

Citizens, and the departments rank-and-file, say they've been lacking leadership for some time at St. Pete PD and hope that Chief Anthony Holloway, who is leaving the job as top cop at Clearwater PD, may just be the right man for the job to turn things around.

Holloway enters a department facing big challenges.

It's buildings, vehicles and technology are all aging. Morale is low, and parts of the community feel completely neglected.

"When 9-11 happened, what we did was we focused a lot on terrorism, and we forgot our community," said Holloway. "Now we're coming back to our community -- and that's what this department is going to do.

The vast majority of people, says Holloway, want to work with law enforcement to solve problems.

"Those 95 percent want the same thing we want -- they don't want that element in their community either. We're gonna work with them. So we're gonna get out of our cars. We're gonna talk to people," he said.

Holloway's commitment to community policing is what seemed to attract St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who decided to dismiss a short list of candidates following a nationwide search and instead offer Holloway the job.

MORE:Expenses raise questions in St. Pete police search

Holloway, Kriseman said, is also "someone who believes in technology and is data driven and uses those techniques."

READ:Anthony Holloway's resume (PDF)
More:Chief Holloway's background history (PDF)

The chief says his first order of business is to size up his staff and the needs of the community, but that will almost invariably lead him to some of the toughest parts of town, in particular, South St. Pete.

The area's arrest rate among teenagers is twice the state average, and the feeling among many about seeing a police officer is that it generally associated with bad news.

"Somebody got shot or somebody's fighting. That's it," said resident Lashawn Young. "That's when you see a cop."

"They want to take you to jail. Ask you what you got on you. I want to see your ID," said Jeremiah Mells, calling the current policing in the area "harassing".

Community activists like Lisa Wheeler Brown, who heads the Council of Neighborhood Associations, says she has confidence in Holloway's abilities. When she asked him how many of his 545 officers would be part of the community patrol, "He said, 'Lisa, all my officers are community are CSO's. I have no police officers.' And I was impressed," she said.

"It's still the same philosophy. Getting officers out of their cars and getting to know the community. And that's what everybody wants," said Chief Holloway.

Realistically, however, in order to accomplish that, St. Pete police would likely need to increase in size.

Behind the scenes, officers say the department is challenged to simply keep up with the number of calls that come in, and wonder how they would have time to get out of their cars and make small talk with members of the community given the department's current level of manpower.

Chief Holloway still has to offer his resignation in Clearwater, which he will likely do this week, he says. There will then be a transition period with Holloway officially taking over as chief sometime in the middle of next month.


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