Pinellas County use-of-force task force made up solely of Pinellas County law enforcement officers

Four law enforcement agencies within Pinellas County announced the creation of the Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Investigative Task Force, which they say is part of an effort to build community trust and reduce any perception of a conflict-of-interest during investigations involving law enforcement officers.

"Nobody in Pinellas County gets a pass just because they are a cop," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference announcing the new task force Tuesday.

Members of the task force will all be law enforcement officers from Pinellas County; Clearwater Police Department, St. Petersburg Police Department, Pinellas Park Police Department, and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Clearwater, St. Pete, and the sheriff's office will each provide three homicide detectives, and Pinellas Park will provide one to investigate other officers who use deadly force or when a death occurs as a result of the use of force.

For example, the sheriff said if a deputy is on a foot pursuit and deploys a Taser that strikes a suspect, causing the suspect to fall, hit their head, and die, that deputy will be investigated by the task force.

"That would be covered by this and require a homicide investigation," Sheriff Gualtieri said.

It was not clear how the detectives who will sit on the task force will be chosen.

Clearwater and St. Petersburg police will divide the use-of-force incidents involving Pinellas County deputies.

Clearwater police will oversee incidents that occur north of Ulmerton Road and Walsingham Road.

St. Pete police will supervise the incidents that occur south of that.

Meanwhile, the sheriff's office will oversee all other investigations, however, other task force members can help if it doesn't involve their own law enforcement agency.

The heads of the agencies said the task force would remove any perceived conflict of interest by allowing other agencies to lead investigations.

The Tarpon Springs Police Department declined to join the task force and decided to keep its agreement with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in terms of use-of-force investigations. 

Sheriff Gualtieri said part of the reason for creating the task force is for the public to trust law enforcement officials in Pinellas County.

"We cannot do our jobs effectively without community trust," he said. "We're not going to wait for something to happen or wait for someone to call something out. We want to get ahead of it."