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Fired St. Pete officer's comments on gang members ran counter to chief's beliefs

Officer: "They deserve death or prison".

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- St. Petersburg police have fired one of their own for posting comments on Facebook under a fake name which suggest gang members cannot be rehabilitated.

But the suggestion of what should be done with those gang members is what likely got the police officer removed from the force.

Officer David Garrett used links to locally-produced gang videos on You Tube under the Facebook pseudonym "Dave Gee." The content, he said, proved members of such gangs are beyond rehabilitating.

“That was a big issue for me,” said St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway.

Holloway signed off on a review board recommendation that Garrett, a four-year veteran of the force, lose his job.

The chief cited comments on Garrett’s Facebook page suggesting, “Incarcerate them all. They deserve death or prison. There is no saving them.”

“Trust that we built in the community not just me, the whole department, he took that away with that comment,” said Chief Holloway.

Although Garrett used the fake name "Dave Gee" online, similar to that of Hillsborough County‘s former sheriff David Gee, it didn’t take long to figure out who Garrett really was.

His photo showed his uniform. He described himself as a police officer working in the neighborhoods where the St. Pete gangs operate.

“And the officer said, you know, he made a mistake. Hindsight being 2020 he shouldn’t of done it,” said Holloway.

Last year, Holloway unveiled an anti-gang unit designed to stem the threat of gang violence early on.

Garrett’s comments run counter to the chief’s own thoughts and policies regarding rehabilitation, second chances, and youth intervention.

“That is not the philosophy of the St. Petersburg Police Department. Our philosophy is to try to do whatever we can do to turn these kids back around and get them back on track,” said Holloway.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin says the city is also a firm believer in intervention and rehabilitation, even creating a position for that purpose.

The city, she says, supports Holloway’s decision to remove Garrett from the force.

“We expect those who work on behalf of the city, certainly those who are finding themselves in a capacity to represent their position or to work with the city, to work with those values in mind,” said Tomalin.

Garrett is entitled to appeal his termination, and he just might.

Records show Garrett has a clean record within the department, and his attorneys with the Fraternal Order of Police might argue that suspension would’ve been more appropriate in this case than termination.

He has 10 working days to file any appeal.

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