Now-retired St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon collected an armful of mementos in a casual ceremony Monday, including several plaques, a pen, a clock, an encased state flag and a handsome display of all the badges he wore over his 31-year career.
Harmon also received accolades from Mayor Rick Kriseman, and offered the new chief executive some advice: "One critical position I will tell you in this city is police chief," Harmon said to Kriseman. "If you remember back to 1993, it changed the form of government we have. That's how critical it is. So pick wisely."
Kriseman plans to hire a national consultant to ferret out potential police chief candidates. First, he will receive more advice from a public safety transition team he appointed after the November mayoral election.
That committee's final report has not been made public, but related documents suggest the police department will see some big changes.
For example, in 2006 Harmon all-but-abolished a 15-year old community policing program. The public safety committee is expected to reinforce Kriseman's support for community policing, although the specifics remain fuzzy.
"People try to put it in a box and say, ‘well, that means every single neighborhood is going to have an officer assigned to it,' " Kriseman told FOX 13 News. "It doesn't mean it has to be that. It's having more closer contact between the community and officers, building that relationship and that level of trust up."
The advisory panel may also suggest using community police officers as code enforcement officers. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said that works in some of the beach towns that hire his agency for law enforcement services.
"Two of those cities very recently, Madeira Beach and St. Pete Beach, eliminated their code enforcement people and have contracted with us to do their code enforcement now as part of community policing," Gualtieri said. "It's turned out to be a very effective model."
The sheriff thinks there is a connection between urban blight and criminal activity.
Kriseman's advisory panel also considered getting rid of St. Petersburg's red light cameras, but even if it does, Kriseman says he still believes in them for safety reasons.
The new mayor appointed several transition teams, but said he will make the final decisions.
"I will take input, I will study the input, I will consider it and if I like it, I will adopt it. If I don't, I'll reject it," Kriseman explained.
None of which concerns Chuck Harmon anymore. Among his farewell gifts, a box of golf balls, courtesy of another police chief.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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