St. Petersburg Police Chief gets proactive about police engagement as protesters rally outside

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Amid a nationwide outcry for justice and concerns about racial profiling in African-American communities, the Saint Petersburg Chief of Police hosted a panel Tuesday night about police engagement. Around 20 city officials, members of the black community, and current and former law enforcement brainstormed ways to reduce racial profiling.

While Chief Anthony Holloway’s meeting was going on inside police headquarters, about 30 protesters rallied outside against police violence.

One of the suggestions to curb racial profiling is sensitivity training for police. Chief Holloway said even he is occasionally guilty of racial profiling.

According to St. Pete Police, officers have used force 850 times so far this year. That has generated 4 complaints: in one case an officer was fired, the department found two of the complaints were unfounded and one is pending. Still, some participants in the panel, like Rev. Manuel Sykes of Bethel Community Baptist Church, want the department’s sensitivity training to be more effective.

Several participants think the police need to be more engaged in the community. Michael Adekunle, former Program Coordinator of the Pinellas County Urban League, suggested that police recruit within black neighborhoods.

The conversation kept coming back to concerns about racial profiling. Rob Perry, former member of the Pinellas Civilian Review Committee, is happy Chief Holloway is committed to end racial profiling, but wants more sanctions against cops who racially profile.

But the protesters outside police headquarters feel as if the African-American police chief isn’t listening to all the concerns and demands of the Black community. Chimurenga Waller, president of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, thinks Chief Holloway is beholden to other interests.

In order to get to the meeting Holloway sidestepped the protest as he crossed the street. He paused to say his meeting would be open for 3 of the protesters to attend.

The St Pete Police has made efforts in the past to engage and communicate with the community. But only a handful of residents showed up to programs like “Park, Walk and Talk” and “Chatting with the Chief.” Holloway said he is open to the idea of the city-wide meeting in January at a venue within the black community, where attendance might be better.

The city-wide discussion meeting will be held in January.

Another protest and march is planned for Saturday in St. Pete.