In Nov. of 1992, thousands voted in a referendum for a strong mayor form of government, empowering St. Petersburg mayors to set and own policies advanced and executed by the St. Petersburg Police Department.
On Nov. 6, 2014, 22 years later, Mayor Rick Kriseman tells the city council that his official position is that he defers to his Chief of Police Anthony Holloway’s position of opposing the National Christian League of Councils (NCLC) initiative that council adopt a new policy requiring all officers who carry a badge and a gun to wear body cams.
Under a strong mayor form a government, this is Mayor Kriseman’s call, not Chief Holloway. This constitutes an abdicating of the mayoral authority.
It’s been four years and still no body cams! The NCLC believes that this constitutes Chief Holloway and Mayor Kriseman’s worst case scenario of procrastination practiced to preempt accountability of St. Petersburg Police Department officers since the Oct. 24 and Nov. 13, 1996, racial revolt and the burning of St. Pete on national television.
In 1996, Mayor David Fisher and Police Chief Dr. Darryl Stephens refused to listen to the cries of the African-American community about their police department then, and Mayor Kriseman and Chief Holloway refuse to listen now!
Mayor Kriseman and Chief Holloway appealed to city council members on Nov. 6, 2014, to not vote for the NCLC’s agenda request, but to give Chief Holloway a chance to test body cams in January of 2015, some two months later. Chief Holloway preferred and proposed police dash cams instead with the backing of Kriseman.
On November 27, 2014, the first-ever “Florida Summit On Body Cams” was sponsored by the NCLC and the ACLU Florida at the University of South Florida–several blocks from city hall—that was attended by sheriffs’ offices and police departments from five counties.
Chief Holloway boycotted the summit. A delegation of ministers, civic, labor and civil rights leaders temporarily left the summit for a half hour to meet with Mayor Kriseman only to find Chief Holloway in the mayor’s office, attending their meeting.
At a subsequent ACLU Pinellas Chapter meeting, Mayor Kriseman conveyed his position to defer all police matters to his appointed chief of police. It is the position of the NCLC that Mayor Kriseman is not taking his lead from Chief Holloway, but the police union who endorsed Kriseman for his Nov. 2017 mayoral bid. Since the union is adamantly opposed to body cams, so is Kriseman.
On Aug. 8, 2016, the NCLC requested to appear before city council again on its body cams request, but the council’s chairman never responded or honored the request to be placed on the agenda. Chief Holloway, Mayor Kriseman or council have produced any reports that indicated Chief Holloway honored his Nov. 6, 2014, promise to test body cams.
However, on Thursday, May 21, 2017, the city council voted 5-2 against spending $87,000 to install 15 dashboard cameras in newly purchased police vehicles. Leading the charge, then council member Karl Nurse told ABC Action News he pushed his fellow council members to vote against the measure, saying the cameras cost too much money, in his opinion, and aren’t necessary, adding they rarely help solve crimes.
Nurse said he also didn’t think officers need body cameras because he doesn’t think officers need to be so closely monitored. Nurse represented the largely African-American community of District 6 and is the same council member who voted to take funds dedicated to the premier MLK Battle of Bands and give it to the Aquarium at the St. Petersburg Pier.
After March 9, 2018, multiple tasing of Lamont Stephens at the Shell service station, the NCLC and ACLU renewed its “Body Cams R Our Ears & Eyes Campaign.” ABC Action News informed the NCLC that Chief Holloway has been testing gun cams for a year and not body cams.
These gun cameras are death cameras and they are nothing new. They are the prized and glorified practice of the big game wildlife hunting industry designed for the sole purpose of using attached cameras on rifles to capture on videos the ecstasy of the kill.
These death cameras are now being marketed by companies that are cloning the idea and attaching cameras to the base of the barrel of police guns to record your actual death or imminent death. The police death cameras are activated when the officer pulls his gun from his revolver when he is about to shoot.
These cameras do not allow video footage of the engagement of citizens once the officer arrives on the scene and everything that leads up to the police shooting. They serve only one purpose–to record your death or imminent death.
This eliminates all accountability of the officer’s actions and deprives the media and community of everyone’s actions at the actual time the officer arrives at a scene and engages the public.
Gun cameras are what Mayor Kriseman and Chief Holloway are motivated to execute; yet, they are opposed to body cams because of their concerns of violating the privacy of the officers.
These officers are paid to serve the tax-paying public and to protect their rights under the constitution without any prioritization to protect their privacy.
Cameras across America are recording the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers in astronomical numbers, not to mention the beatings of minorities. Yet, Mayor Kriseman, Chief Holloway and council feel that there is no need for them.
Sevell C. Brown, III
NCLC National Director