Three Pinellas County law enforcement agencies announce coming procedural changes

In the two weeks since George Floyd’s death, there has been a growing movement calling for real, positive changes at local police departments to address racism and brutality.

Monday, three agencies in Pinellas County announced they are improving their policies and procedures.

Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter says the department has been taking a hard look at its policies and recognizes there is room for improvement.

“I think we need to be much more clear in our policy that any blocking of the airway on a handcuffed prisoner is totally unacceptable, we’ve trained it but I don’t think our policy is as clear as I’d like it to be,” said Slaughter.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the St. Petersburg Police Department are also reviewing their rules.

All three agencies already require officers to report misconduct they observe to a supervisor, however, it is another policy the leaders agree should be updated.

“After spending a couple days out there with the community and talking to the community, we decided to add in the word intervene to make it clear to the young officers, to make it clear to the community that the officer will intervene when they see someone doing something wrong,” explained St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway.

A sentiment echoed by Slaughter, and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

“We’re gonna add that in there, and it’s a good idea just in light of these circumstances to put it in there,” he said.

Gualtieri says he is developing a report that will detail the policies he plans to change, and highlight the rules the office already has in place that are being pushed nationwide as urgent reforms.

“Having policies in place is only 50% of the equation, and I suggest to you a more important part of the equation is agency culture, and that is people who actually do the right thing and insisting that the right thing is being done,” Gualtieri said.

In Pinellas County, all three department leaders believe they have the right culture in place, and hold every officer to the highest standards when they mess up.

“I think you gotta pick good people, you gotta have good rules in place, you gotta train them right and you gotta hold them accountable to it,” Slaughter said.

Monday afternoon Slaughter and Gualtieri sat down with local pastors to discuss ways to improve the department’s relationship with black communities. They plan to continue meeting on a regular basis and vow to be more transparent and open with the public to help advance the cause.