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Angry chief confronts City Council members

Two members pushing for a formal police department review are challenged by Chief Goliath Davis.

By LEANORA MINAI

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- For the second time in his tenure, police Chief Goliath Davis III got into a heated exchange Tuesday with City Council members over his management style.

Davis clashed with council members Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster during a public workshop about conducting an outside review of the Police Department.

The usually diplomatic chief accused them of having a personal agenda and said unproved complaints about him will not end because they come from the same critics who do not like him.

"You won't get that until me is gone and me is not gone because I still have some work to do," Davis told the council. Council members were supposed to direct the staff Tuesday to develop a plan for the outside review, but it never got that far. Instead, they will vote April 20 on whether to have a review.

"What can we, as policymakers, do to help you do your job?" Foster asked at the beginning of the discussion. "What can we do?"

Davis, appointed chief in 1997, told council members a management review is a waste of time and money. He said four separate studies have been done of the department since 1998. He also cited ongoing restructuring based on staff retreats in 1999 and this year.

"What is the motive behind all of this?" Davis asked.

The arguing and accusations started flying when Ford began listing issues she wanted examined. Among her concerns, Ford said, is that the Police Department is conducting fewer narcotics search warrants -- a contention Davis disputed with his numbers.

"What dates are you looking at?" Davis asked.

Ford replied that she wasn't going to get into that and moved on, wanting to know when in the last 10 years patrol ranks were at full strength, why there were discrepancies with some response times and why a pizza company does not deliver to "every resident in St. Pete."

Davis said he and his staff have provided answers, including an invitation for her to meet with a narcotics supervisor to review search warrants.

"Don't sit in a public forum and state things that are not true," Davis told Ford.

Tensions escalated after Foster made his closing remarks. Early in the workshop, Foster said he favored a study evaluating recruitment and retention, crime trend analysis and Police Department satisfaction among citizens and employees.

"It doesn't have to be personal," Foster said at the end of the workshop.

"Don't insult me," replied Davis, who was sitting at a table with council. "That's all I'm saying . . . you guys got an agenda. At least you two do," he said, referring to Ford and Foster.

"I so disagree, chief," Foster replied.

Then, as council and city staff discussed taking a vote on the review on April 20, Foster got up from his chair, began walking away and said with a smirk that he hoped if his colleagues voted in favor of a department review, that they would not be accused of having an agenda.

Davis was sitting in the audience with members of his top staff -- Executive Assistant Jeff Rink, Acting Assistant chief Chuck Harmon and Department spokesman Rick Stelljes. Davis' bosses -- Mayor David Fischer and Chief of Staff Don McCrae -- also were in the audience.

Foster, as he was walking toward an exit near Davis, sarcastically remarked that his agenda was to make Davis a 10, referring to an answer Davis recently gave about rating his performance.

Davis said, "Don't say nothin' to me, councilman. Nothin'."

Foster called Davis' outburst uncalled for.

"You are uncalled for," Davis said as he walked across the room toward Foster.

Rink followed, trying to calm the chief as City Administrator Tish Elston briefly rested her palm on Davis' back.

Davis' last clash with council came during a council meeting in January 1999 when he defended himself against accusations from Ford and activist Lorraine Margeson.

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