Mayor Rick Kriseman finally got to interview his four police chief candidates last week. That accomplished, the patience of the major police union expired.
"The officers, our members of the union, would like to know what direction their city is going and who the next chief -- their employer -- is going to be," PBA spokesman Michael Krohn told FOX 13 News. "If you don't know who your chief is going to be, you don't know how to gauge your performance."
Former police chief Chuck Harmon announced his retirement last October, and an interim chief took over in January days after Kriseman took office.
Mayoral spokesman Ben Kirby said a new chief will be named sometime after Kriseman returns from a vacation in early July.
The widely held belief that current St. Petersburg Assistant Chief Melanie Bevan is the best candidate has proven to be a complication. Bevan clearly enjoys the most support from local citizens, a majority of City Council members, and the rank-and- file officers.
However, good relations with the police union is not necessarily a good thing in the minority community, which thinks the PBA favors more aggressive law reinforcement tactics.
"Whether it's true or not, it's hard to say," NAACP president Manuel Sykes told FOX 13 News, "it's a perception and you know perception goes a long way."
Sykes agreed a new leader is needed, the sooner the better.
"There are people -- police, black and white -- that don't even speak," Sykes said. "There's a divide in the department, whoever the chief is, has got to stop it."
Sykes' perspective highlights the peculiar nature of policing in St. Petersburg.
"This is the only city I have seen with such heavy politics in every decision that comes out of the law enforcement agency," Krohn observed.
Sykes agreed, noting the continuing tensions between police and the African American community.
"I think there's still an uneasy peace," Sykes added. "I think everybody's waiting to see who the new chief will be."
All of which makes selecting a new police chief more challenging, compared to other cities.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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