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Looking for bad guys who look like them

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© St. Petersburg Times, published December 17, 2000

There is no end of merriment in the St. Petersburg Police Department. Now it looks like they've got a plumbers unit.

That's plumbers the way Richard Nixon defined it. The brass is looking for the disgruntled street cops they suspect of leaking information about the department to its critics.

I heard this from Lorraine Margeson. She's well known in City Hall and the Police Department, but in those corridors her praises are not necessarily sung.

Margeson is a crime watch leader -- and perfectly willing to get in the face of anybody she thinks is standing in the way of keeping her neighborhood, just off 34th Street N and above Central Avenue, safe. Even the police.

Late last month, a sergeant called. Wanted to meet with her. Wouldn't say why.

Sgt. Gary Dukeman showed up in his patrol car. Then a major, David DeKay, arrived out of nowhere, on foot. Margeson was stunned. "They were like Col. Klink and Sgt. Schultz, the buffoons of the Gestapo!"

They wanted to know whether she was getting police information she wasn't supposed to have.

About the only information not legally available is the record of an ongoing investigation. Margeson had never gotten anything like that, but as a crime watch leader, she often receives other reports.

Margeson did what she does so well. She stood up for herself.

"What is there to get that I'm not supposed to get?" she barked. "You're probably coming to me about a cop I know, love and respect!"

Dukeman and DeKay were looking for three pieces of paper, rosters that showed which officers were working in one district during one shift. According to the PBA's Bill LauBach, the rosters were dotted with other scribbled notes, containing comments that the department was undermanned.

Also according to LauBach, those rosters are public record. So there would be no reason for Margeson not to have them.

At least one officer is under investigation for insubordination for helping to circulate the rosters. And not just any cop, but Sandy Minor.

She was the partner of the white cop, James Knight, who shot a black man in a car, the incident that set rocks and bottles flying south of Central Avenue in 1996 -- which in turn propelled Go Davis into the chief's chair.

The police union is representing Minor. LauBach said she has admitted putting the rosters in another cop's mailbox. Margeson never got them.

Doesn't exactly sound like an impeachable offense.

But Margeson said she was told at that weird little meeting that the brass wants to review every bit of information street cops give to residents before it goes out. The department has even sent the three rosters to the FDLE to examine them for fingerprints and analyze the handwriting to find out who else scribbled their opinions on the records, LauBach said.

The cops who met with Margeson confirmed the meeting, but said otherwise only that an investigation is under way.

LauBach has a theory about it: "Simply a petty way for them to get at something that's totally political."

See, Lorraine Margeson isn't just a crime watch leader. She favors Kathleen Ford for mayor. Ford delights in giving Chief Go Davis a hard time, and one of her beefs is the number of cops on the street. Just like Margeson. Anything Ford could get out of the department would be useful in her campaign.

Think about it. They're supposed to be busting crack dealers and car thieves, but they're looking for enemies within, who might be helping enemies without.

Your tax dollars at work.

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