CLEARWATER, Fla. — Faith leaders in Clearwater are pushing for change through conversation.
Monday, the Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance met with the Clearwater Police Chief and Pinellas County Sheriff in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“Unless our people stop dying for no reason at all, we can’t expect violence and riots to stop. We know that rioting and force of what we’ve been seeing is not the answer,” said the alliance’s president Pastor Carlton Childs.
The meeting comes days after people peacefully protested in Coachman Park. Law enforcement said this week's discussion lasted about an hour and a half, with questions about things like training and accountability.
“We want to make sure they’re getting the proper training, proper assessments on an ongoing basis that will kind of catch some of these things that goes on in the mind of a police officer,” said Childs.
A focus coming out of the meeting included communication with the community.
“I think that’s one of the things we do need to do a better job of is communicating with the community about the things that we have or already have in place,” said Sheriff Bob Gaultieri.
“I think we need to be much more clear in our policy that any blocking of the airway of a handcuffed prisoner is totally unacceptable. We’ve trained it but I don’t think our policy is as clear as I’d like it to be,” said Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter. “We have a mechanism or a rule about our duty to report however I think we can do some improvement in the language there where we require employees and it’s clearly articulated in our use of force policies that that is an expectation of staff.”
Sheriff Gualtieri said his department already has a policy requiring deputies to report to their immediate supervisor or internal affairs, but said they’ll look at the policy to see if there’s an opportunity to be more explicit on intervention.
However, he said policy is only part of the equation.
“One of the things that’s incumbent on all of us to do is ensure by action that we have the right culture. I believe that the law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County do have the right culture,” the sheriff said.
Childs said moving forward, trust needs to be rebuilt within the community.
“Let us let the people know that we’re angry, let them know our voice is going to be heard, let them know that we’re not stopping. And we’re going to do whatever we’ve got to do to get this change that we needed,” he said.