A 30-minute program called LPD TV, which begins Oct. 4, is just one of Chief Lester Aradi's community policing programs in the works.
By CHRIS TISCH
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 27, 2001
LARGO -- Police Chief Lester Aradi says he considers city residents to be his bosses. And he wants to reach into the community to hear what they want from their police department.
He has three new plans to do that.
The first is a slick new television show, LPD TV, which begins airing next month. The second is a survey that will ask more than 13,000 city residents what they want from their department. And the last is a series of coffee-shop sit-downs in which Aradi will meet with residents to talk about police business.
Aradi, who was hired as chief in January, embraces community policing philosophies, and part of that is creating better communication between residents and police officials.
"It's my belief that the community and the residents of the community are our true bosses," Aradi said Wednesday. "You can't have community policing without the community being part of it."
The television show is one way for the department to reach into residents' homes. The half-hour show, which begins Oct. 4, will air 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Sunday on Channel 15.
The show, which is anchored by Officers Tara Hansen and Rex Troche, blends the format of a television news magazine with practical tips on crime prevention and personal safety tips. Residents also can learn about crime trends that may be affecting their neighborhoods.
Aradi took his cue from Clearwater police Chief Sid Klein, whose show, Blueline CPD, has been on the air for six years. Klein hosts his own show -- which is 90 minutes long, is recorded live and features live calls from residents.
Aradi said his officers will take the helm on Largo's show.
"I chose for it not to be the Chief Aradi show," he said. "He (Klein) is good; I am shy, frankly."
While older police shows may have featured stone-faced officers sitting at a desk reading crime prevention tips, Largo's show is hardly that. The opening features snappy music and jazzy editing, while the features are fast-paced and funny.
One feature for the first program has an officer giving a joke-laden tour of the police station.
"This is an alarm panel," Officer Steve Field says while pointing to an alarm system. "Nobody's really sure what it does."
Police spokesman Mac McMullen said the light-hearted segments are designed to be entertaining yet informative.
Klein, who had Aradi on his show when he took over as Largo chief, said his show has been very successful; and he hopes Largo's will, as well.
"The objective of doing the show is to open up the lines of communication with citizens," he said. "It is a very effective way of communicating."
Aradi also is planning audiences with smaller groups of people in his Coffee with the Chief program. Aradi plans to visit various restaurants throughout the city, where he hopes residents will join him to talk about police issues.
Aradi plans to have special guests at each coffee talk, the first of which will begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 20 at Ted's Luncheonette, 1201 Clearwater-Largo Road.
Aradi's third plan is the survey, which will be sent to 13,200 of the city's residents. The survey asks residents to rate the professionalism of officers they have met, as well as the visibility of the department.
The survey also polls residents on what they want officers to be doing, whether it be patrolling for kids breaking curfew, enforcing traffic laws more strictly or scouring neighborhoods for burglars.
The surveys also will be split into sectors so Aradi can see if residents on one side of town want one thing, while residents in another may want something else.
"I really want to show the community that they have an active voice in the services we provide to them," he said.
Klein, who Aradi describes as "a master on community policing," said he thinks the new Largo chief is doing good things.
"I see him as moving Largo in the right direction," said Klein, whose agency has won international awards for its community policing initiatives. "And I really think he will succeed."