Goliath Davis III, the respected and outspoken unofficial leader of St. Petersburg’s African-American community, stirs up controversy once again; this time about who he thinks should (or should not) be the next chief of police.
Davis believes there are no “capable” in-house candidates for chief currently in the St. Petersburg Police Department.
“The City of St. Petersburg needs an ‘outside chief,’” said the former police chief and senior city official in a June 12 editorial for The Weekly Challenger. Davis was responding to several calls from residents in “all corners of the city” as to his opinion of who Mayor Rick Kriseman should choose as the next chief.
Davis agrees with Kriseman’s announcement of the final four candidates, one of which will become the permanent replacement of retired Chief Chuck Harmon. Assistant Police Chief David DeKay has served as interim head since Harmon stepped down in January.
“Many were surprised the most qualified individual in the department, Assistant Chief Luke Williams, did not make the final four,” Davis wrote.
“The police chief in St. Petersburg occupies a very large stage and given the current state of affairs within the department, there is not a candidate in house capable of providing the stability and direction needed to “right the ship” and move the department and ultimately the city forward,” he added.
“An internal candidate ensures instability and discord.”
Davis certainly knows about that, given his contentious tenure as chief and later Deputy Mayor/senior administrator of community enrichment during the administration of former Mayor Bill Foster. In 2011, the influential civic leader refused Foster’s order to attend the funeral of Officer David S. Crawford, killed in the line of duty, instead opting to attend the funeral of a convict who had killed two police officers earlier in south St. Petersburg.
Foster, calling the snub “the last straw,” then fired Davis, explaining that he “lost confidence” Davis could adequately perform his job with the city as Deputy Mayor.
Goliath Davis believes the department is in too much disarray to field a suitable candidate.
“Internal power struggles and issues previously addressed and controlled were refueled under the prior administration and continue to disrupt the department and the community,” Davis said in last week’s op-ed.
“The Kriseman administration should recognize one important fact — they did not create the current situation but the opportunity to own the solution is ever-present and awaits their responsible intervention and leadership.”
Davis continued to blast Foster’s lack of leadership by pointing out the organizational mess he left Kriseman to clean up in the police department. One example was the unfortunate situation where the mayor, under the stated intent to appoint the first openly gay police chief, promoted Melanie Bevan to assistant chief while Assistant Chief Cedric Gordon was on bereavement leave, resulting in the department having to report to two assistant chiefs.
Bevan and Williams had worked under Goliath Davis during his time deputy chief, assistant chief, chief and deputy mayor, and he is “acutely aware of the attributes” of each. Both of them, according to Davis, contributed to the “current state of affairs in the organization” and neither should benefit from “community campaigns and popularity contests.”
“The position and the issues we face are too important to continue the power struggle,” he said.
If Kriseman should not find an appropriate external candidate, Goliath Davis suggests the mayor should “declare a failed search” and start again with a “capable” search firm and a new, diverse pool of candidates.
“St. Pete’s next police chief should be a carefully selected outside candidate capable of providing the much needed departmental and community stability,” he concludes.
Goliath Davis’ full editorial is online at the WeeklyChallenger.com.