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New St. Pete police hiring process will allow a civilian to sit in on interviews

The police chief says the change is a direct result of recent conversations he’s had with people in the community.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The St. Petersburg Police Department will now require a civilian to sit in on the interview panel for prospective new officers.

Chief Anthony Holloway says the change is a direct result of recent conversations he’s had with people in the community in the wake of calls for police reform sparked by the death of George Floyd.

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“We want to go out there and we want to listen to all of these groups, we want to take their ideas and if we can do it, let’s do it,” Holloway told 10 Tampa Bay.

“Just because we’ve always done it one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way—we can always make ourselves better.”

Holloway says the civilian will have the same access as the other supervisors on the panel, be able to ask questions, and ultimately vote on whether to advance the candidate to the next stage of the hiring process.

“They want to see the candidates and they’re right because when you think about it they should,” he said. “Adding a civilian onto our review process it really gives transparency so the people can see who we’re interviewing and why we select that person.”

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Holloway says the department will fill the civilian spot with leaders from the local faith community first before opening the application process up some time next year.

But some are skeptical.

Maria Scruggs, who up until just last week served as president of the St. Pete NAACP before stepping down to run for county commissioner, said the policy change was news to her.

Scruggs worries it’s more show than substance that could wind up like the department’s current Civilian Review Committee -- something that looks good on paper but carries little power or influence in practice.

“This is one of those tactics that when we talk about citizen involvement it’s often people who don’t have the experience in that particular area and they just become another rubber stamp,” Scruggs said. “That is just not what we’re going to be looking for this time.”

RELATED: Calls grow for citizen review boards: Here’s what they are and which police agencies already have them

RELATED: Tampa's NAACP calls for citizen review board changes and more

The group’s new president Nick Wright said he, too, had not been made aware of the change but was pleased, albeit cautious.

“I’m happy they will be doing this and I look forward to the NAACP working more closely with the department on such changes in the future,” he said.

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