Racial Strife In St. Petersburg: Blacks Seek Halt In White Cop Promotions


The decades-old strain between the black community and the St. Petersburg, Fl., Police Department has permeated the agency’s rank-and-file, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Roughly 125 black police officers, city activists and clergy members met behind closed doors this week with Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin to discuss widespread racial turmoil. Tensions ran high during the 90-minute meeting. The group asked the city to halt five promotions, likely all white officers, planned for next month and asked for an outside agency to investigate the department’s inequities against black officers.

“It’s not about individuals,” Assistant Chief Luke Williams told the group. “It’s about relationships in the community.” While meeting leaders asked the media to leave so the group could talk openly, reporters could hear every word through a collapsible wall dividing the room and the sitting area. Those attending told Tomalin that they have no faith in the white leaders of the department. “Like it or not, we have a person serving as interim chief,” Tomalin said, referring to interim Chief David DeKay. “The mayor is not at all interested in undermining his authority.” The crowd wasn’t pacified by her response. With a nationwide search under way for a new police chief, the department is fractured into two camps behind the top internal candidates: Williams and Assistant Chief Melanie Bevan.

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