Mayor Rick Kriseman and retired Asst. Chief of Police Luke Williams | President & CEO, PCUL Watson Haynes and Pattye Sawyer
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
CLEARWATER – “Justice for All” was the theme of Pinellas County Urban League’s (PCUL) fifth annual Whitney M. Young Junior Empowerment Luncheon. This year’s celebration honored Assistant Chief of Police Luke Williams for 32 years of service in law enforcement and a lifetime of dedicated public service.
Held at Banquet Masters in Clearwater, Rev. Kenny Irby took over Master of Ceremony duties for PCUL’s second largest fundraiser while Erik C. Smith, PCUL Board Chairman gave the welcome.
“When I think about Luke, a number of words come to mind: integrity, mentor, role model, true public servant, community leader and a true advocate for our youth,” said Chairman Kenneth Welch, Pinellas Board of County Commissioners.
Those words were echoed throughout the afternoon last Friday, Feb. 23. Those words seemed to have defined Williams’ three-decade career at the St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD).
Joining the department in1986, the vestiges of Jim Crow St. Pete could still be felt at SPPD. Two decades before, 12 African-American police officers filed a lawsuit against the department that forced integration. They came to be known as the Courageous 12 and their actions paved the way for both officers of color and women.
Before integration for forced, black officers were treated as second-class citizens. They could only work in black neighborhoods, could only arrest black people and received hand-me-down cars.
Williams once said that he stands on the shoulders of those 12 men, and now after his storied career, “I believe our officers today will call him an inspiration,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman.
In 1996, Williams rose to become a sergeant and in four short years became an assistant chief.
“When I left the police department, I only answered to Chief Holloway. I had a key to every room in the building. I ordered ever car that we had so black officers didn’t get hand-me-down cars like you all did,” said Williams, speaking to one of the last two Courageous 12 officers alive, Leon Jackson.
During his time at the SPPD, he was known for treating everyone, even those he arrested, with respect. He was visible and accessible and spent countless holidays with his police family.
“We don’t really fully understand what kind of commitment that you make when you become a police officer,” said Mayor Kriseman.