St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is set to reveal this week his choice to be the next Chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department.
But no matter who Kriseman selects, the process has been a mess and is the first indelible black mark on the first-year mayor’s record.
Kriseman could name Commissioner Gordon the next Chief of Police and it would not mitigate the damage caused by this public relations disaster.
First of all, the selection process took far too long, leaving the Police Department rudderless for most of the time Kriseman has been in office. The PD has been without a permanent chief since January, when Chuck Harmon retired after 12 years.
The City is fortunate that a major crisis did not develop during this transition period.
Second of all, Kriseman’s administration has handled the selection process almost as poorly as Florida State University has dealt with picking a new president. That Kriseman selected four finalists only to throw away his own shortlist at the eleventh hour inspires little credibility.
The leader of a major law enforcement agency in the Tampa Bay area labeled the whole situation a “farce” — and one that will have far-reaching ramifications for the department for years to come.
“No one will want to go work there.”
Kriseman has also managed to upset most of the stakeholders in this decision. The rank-and-file squarely wanted to see Assistant Police Chief Melanie Bevan given the top spot. By passing her over, he’s further alienated the average officer.
Bevan was also the clear choice of the majority of the community, which is reacting with anger to news of Bevan not getting the job.
As Kameel Stanley of the Tampa Bay Times reported last month, Kriseman’s inbox has been flooded with emails from police employees, neighborhood leaders, residents and others in the law enforcement community — with most advocating for Bevan. Two-thirds of the public who met the finalists at a forum last month said they supported Bevan.
Passing over Bevan is going to leave a big, gaping sore in the department that Kriseman and his new chief will have little remedy to address.
And let’s not forget that, even if Kriseman does select African-American Tony Holloway as the next chief, the first choice of Midtown residents was Luke Williams, who Kriseman did not even make a finalist for consideration.
Finally, too much of this process has been shrouded in secrecy. Would the city even be discussing the snubbing of Bevan and the possible hiring of Holloway had a couple of LEO’s not reached out to me on a Saturday morning to tell me of Kriseman’s passing over Bevan?
Or, what is more likely, St. Pete residents would be waking up on Monday to news that Mayor Kriseman was thinking of luring Commissioner Gordon away from Gotham?