As the Sarasota Police Advisory Panel was beginning its final meeting May 24, nearly 40 Sarasota residents made a dramatic display of support for the Sarasota Police Department.
During the public-input portion of the meeting, downtown advocate Diana Hamilton told panel members they were there to respect and honor former Police Chief Peter Abbott, who resigned last week, and voice support for Interim Chief Mikel Holloway and all Sarasota police officers.
“We wish to thank them for their dedicated service in keeping our community safe,” said Hamilton. “Thank you, Chief Abbott, for making yourself so accessible to us, as citizens. You were always one of us, never above us.”
As Hamilton spoke, the more than three-dozen supporters in the City Commission Chambers stood up to show they agreed with her. Hamilton had previously told panel members that they were becoming too divisive and were criticizing Abbott and the entire department too much.
One of the panel members, John McGruder, also mentioned Abbott.
“I want to thank Chief Abbott for his years of service,” he said.
And with that, the panel reviewed its final recommendations to the City Commission.
The report is titled “Our community, our police: a model for excellence,” and it contains 62 recommendations on how to improve the Sarasota Police Department.
Twelve of those 62 were termed “priority recommendations.” They are:
• The Early Intervention System criteria must be reviewed. (The EIS is intended to head off problem behaviors in officers before they happen.)
• The EIS must be used to ensure problem officers are counseled and details are placed in their personnel files.
• The Use of Force Review Board, which investigates use-of-force incidents and includes officers from other agencies, a minority community member and a young person, must continue.
• Supervisors and training staff must routinely monitor resistance-to-arrest forms to determine if there is any misuse of force.
• The department must aggressively review and train officers on how to best interface with the public.
• The department must assign officers with the best interpersonal skills to minority neighborhoods and allow community representatives to request a problem officer be assigned to another neighborhood. If the department disagrees with a reassignment request, it must give the community a reason why.
• The city must assist and expand the department’s outreach efforts, especially with minorities.
• The interface between the city manager and chief of police must be re-examined to allow the chief greater flexibility for commanding the department.
• The chief, closely monitored by management throughout the chain of command, must set the highest standard in orders and guidelines.
• A new organization, Complaints Against Police Officers, will investigate all complaints from the public.
• A Police Complaint Committee must be established to oversee completed investigations by the Complaints Against Police Officers panel.
• A permanent Police Advisory Panel must be established with community members appointed by the City Commission.
All of the panel’s recommendations will be presented to the City Commission June 7. Commissioners may then direct staff to review the report and possibly offer changes.
Panel members, whose job is now complete, thanked each other for their work.
“It shows a diverse group can come together and reach a consensus,” said Chairwoman Susan Chapman.
But McGruder also wanted to thank others.
“The unsung heroes in all of this are our police officers,” he said.
New Chief Introduced
Interim Police Chief Mikel Holloway appeared at the Police Advisory Panel meeting May 24 to thank members for their work and introduce his new command staff.
With Captains Lucius Bonner, Jeff Karr, Wade McVay and Paul Sutton at his side, Holloway said he had reviewed the panel’s recommendations and thinks it has done a good job.
The interim chief also praised his officers.
“I’m confident in this agency,” he said. “I’d put them up against any agency in the state of Florida.”
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected]