Letters to the Editors
Officers need choice on ride-alongs
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 17, 2000
Re: Don't scrap ride-alongs altogether, editorial, Dec. 10.
There is a long-standing (written) agreement between the Police Benevolent Association and St. Petersburg Police Department about the ride-along program. The agreement has made this program voluntary and ensured an officer's right to refuse taking a ride-along if he or she chooses not to. Up to this point it has worked fine.
The brouhaha, as you describe it, only became so when the police administration attempted to unilaterally change the provisions of our agreement without negotiating with the PBA, which could have resulted in an unfair labor practice against the city. The editorial suggests that fewer and fewer officers are willing to take on passengers at all. However, we have not been provided with any data supporting this assumption.
We believe that to force an officer to take a ride-along when he or she chooses not to is both an officer-safety and public-relations nightmare. Ride-alongs are an added responsibility and can be a distraction for the officer, who must remain focused on assigned duties and responsibilities of public safety during a working shift. It's tough enough to stay focused with the current controlling hostile work environment without forcing the added responsibility of an unfamiliar face riding next to you in the cruiser. Officer Roy Olsen's explanation of "Some days you just don't feel like it" is quite good enough.
How good would it be for public relations if an officer made it clear to the ride-along that he or she was not welcomed because of being forced on the officer? It could make for a long eight hours in a police cruiser for both the officer and ride-along and could be an officer safety distraction.
Police work is difficult enough without forcing the added responsibilities of entertaining for public-relations purposes. A routine call can turn to something bad in a matter of seconds, and the police officer must be mentally capable of dealing with such matters. Every police department has a ride-along program that does not force officers to take someone in their cruiser they don't want. Why should St. Petersburg be any different?
We are not suggesting that officials scrap ride-alongs altogether. We simply want the volunteer ride-along program to remain as is, and to respect the wishes of those officers who don't want the added responsibility.
This is not Mayberry
Re: Don't scrap ride-alongs altogether, editorial, Dec. 10.
I believe you are too quick to once again "take the side of the chief" in your paper. You and the chief fail to understand the importance of a police officer's job. Officers have one of the most dangerous and thankless jobs around, particularly in a city where they do not enjoy the support of their chief or mayor. They have to question their every decision made on the street, putting their lives in jeopardy. On top of that, you and the chief want them to worry about another person's well-being and safety while trying to rush from call to call.
This is not Mayberry! These officers wear bulletproof vests and carry guns. They experience dangerous situations every day! There are a lot of incidents that don't make it into your paper, or receive very small coverage, that people wouldn't believe happen right here in sleepy little St. Petersburg. The Uhurus already go around trying to tape everything the police do. Take a step back for a minute and think how you would feel doing your job with a camera being turned on you. Not that you are doing anything wrong, but it is not an easy environment in which to do your job when someone is filming your every move.
And how would you feel to have someone showing up for several days and following you around all day? This is not about public relations; it is about public safety! This is a serious job that puts men's and women's lives in danger every day. Stop treating the officers as if they are the "bad guys," or maybe I could request to ride along with the chief a few days. I bet that would go over like a lead balloon!
And please stop referring to them as "cops" in the press. They are officers and should be addressed as such. If you want youth to learn to respect the police, then the adults need to set an example.Carol Trievel Feeley, St. Petersburg
Tickets work; warnings don't
Re: Zealous trooper, chief clash over turf in city, Dec. 6.
Why would the mayor and the chief of police of a small municipality object to the law being enforced on one of the roads running through their city?
The Florida Highway Patrol trooper is doing this to stop people speeding and failing to pay the toll. They object because he is issuing citations instead of just warnings. It is absurd that two top officials would object to this.
If we had more police officers issuing citations, Pinellas County would not have the bad reputation for law enforcement that it has. The time for warnings is over -- they don't work!
Start enforcing traffic laws, and drivers will start obeying them.
All that it's cracked up to be
I read your article on The Chocolate Nutcracker and cannot recall seeing any articles in the paper about The Nutcracker presented by the Pinellas County Center for the Arts last weekend at the Mahaffey Theater. This is an annual event presented by public school students of all ages. They do a superb job. The costumes, acting and dancing are equal to or better than some of the professional performances I have seen at the Mahaffey Theater. Those who did not attend missed an excellent opportunity to see what some of our talented young people are doing with their lives today. At the end of the performance, the standing ovation was well deserved.
We should be proud of these students, and the St. Petersburg Times should give them the publicity they need to let the community know about this wonderful yearly program. I personally wish to thank the students for a delightful evening.
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