Tension with police rising in St. Pete, community leaders say - FOX 13 News

Tension with police rising in St. Pete, community leaders say

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Several leaders of St. Petersburg's African-American community claim recent police activities are elevating tensions between law enforcement and citizens.

"What we're here to say is we want something done, and we want it done quickly," said NAACP St. Petersburg president Manuel Sykes, "We don't believe the police can police themselves, or at least they're not doing it adequately."

John Muhammad, representing the Childs Park Neighborhood Association, said "It is to a point now where the confidence in the police has really diminished."

Both men referred to two recent incidents involving officers on foot shooting at vehicles, a loosened pursuit policy that exposes civilians to more speeding police cruisers, and what are perceived as unwarranted stops and searches of law-abiding citizens.

The leaders recalled similar complaints existed before two civil disturbances in 1996.

"We need to look back at the policy that does not get us into the same situation that we were in with this riot that we had in this community was internationally broadcast," said Watson Haynes. "We don't want that face on this community anymore."

They also voiced frustrations with previous meetings with leaders of the police department.

"We come to them, we share information, no results," Sykes said. "The community comes to us and says, 'what are you doing? Why aren't some of these problems being resolved?' "

Police Chief Chuck Harmon said the two officer-involved shootings are still under investigation by the internal affairs unit. He also said he is surprised by the allegations.

"We're concerned about equality, we're concerned about making sure our community is policed properly and professionally, and I think we do a good job of that," Harmon said.

The community leaders said they will frame their concerns in a letter by the end of this week.

The chief said the concerns would be addressed.

"What I will do in response to this is I'll be glad to sit down with them and talk about it, because I think there may be some misinformation out there," Harmon said.

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