Mayor Rick Kriseman will hire an outside auditor to review the St. Petersburg Police department's promotion processes.
The action follows allegations of racial bias expressed at a community gathering Tuesday night at Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church.
The Reverend Louis Murphy told FOX 13 News it was supposed to be a small meeting between him, assistant police chief Luke Williams and a few others.
"Somehow or another, this thing just grew feet," Williams said. "There were probably 70 people in the room -- police staff, [city] administration, clergy, community activists."
Also attending, although not invited: Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and the city's director of urban affairs.
The pending promotions to fill four sergeant and one lieutenant position was one area of complaint, with unidentified members of the police force alleging the process had been compromised to the detriment of African-American candidates.
While admitting he has no inside knowledge of internal department politics, Rev. Murphy concluded "there's some real tension in the police department."
A spokesman for Mayor Kriseman told FOX 13 News Deputy Mayor Tomalin measured "the agitation" in the meeting and told attendees the promotions would be put on hold.
"The mayor and deputy mayor are gathering information," spokesman Ben Kirby said, adding "they want to understand not just the nature of the allegations but whether there's any validity to them."
Kirby said an outside firm with human resources expertise would review the promotion process and the allegations. If substantiated, there will be consequences for those who tampered with the process.
However "If these allegations are baseless, the people that have raised them need to know they will hear from the mayor…he will address them directly."
The acrimony arises just as Kriseman employs another consultant to conduct a national search for a new police chief. Some of the dissenters feel there should be no promotions until there is a new chief.
Acting Police Chief David DeKay explained the lengthy process of testing and assessments that produce a list of officers qualified for promotions. The latest list is dated February 28th, and typically will be used for two years.
DeKay defended the fairness of the process, but agreed with delaying promotions.
"There were some serious allegations made about the testing process," de Kay said. "Until we get those resolved or understand what's going on, I don't think it's a bad idea."
It is not known what outside auditor will be employed nor how long the review will take. A new police chief could be in place as early as May or June.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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