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Police recruit blossoms into St. Petersburg's top officer

Michael J. Kovacsev's quiet, but commanding, presence caught the chief's attention in law enforcement school. Now he's officer of the year.

By ALICIA CALDWELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- There was something special about the inquisitive young student in the law enforcement course police Chief Goliath Davis was teaching at the University of South Florida.

"He had a commanding presence about him even though he's soft-spoken," Davis said.

The very qualities that captured Davis' attention had a lot to do with the selection of St. Petersburg police Officer Michael J. Kovacsev as 1999 Police Officer of the Year, Davis said.

Kovacsev was honored Thursday at a luncheon at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. The award was presented by the Exchange Club of St. Petersburg. About 85 people attended, including his wife, Cheri, and their three children.

Davis said that after meeting Kovacsev at the University of South Florida, he encouraged the young man to become a police officer and recruited him for the St. Petersburg force, which he joined in 1994. Kovacsev was a patrol officer until last year, when he became a community police officer for the Childs Park neighborhood.

Kovacsev, 28, was commended by his bosses at the police department, as well as residents, for going after drug dealers in Childs Park without antagonizing or offending people in the neighborhood.

"I appreciate the aggressive stand that (Kovacsev) has taken in tackling the drug dealing," according to a recent letter in Kovacsev's personnel file from Childs Park resident Gregory Pierce. "Mike does an incredible job of effectively shutting down problem properties and making the neighborhood a better place."

Kovacsev also has been commended for his ability to recover stolen vehicles. In 1998, he found 28 of them. He also was praised by his supervisors for recognizing crimes in progress and reacting appropriately, according to his personnel file.

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