PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Several Pinellas County law enforcement agencies are coming together to launch a new use of deadly force investigative task force.
Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter, St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway and Pinellas Park Police Chief Michael Haworth announced they will work together to get the new task force up and running.
Starting now, if a deputy or officer is involved in the use of force and it leads to a person dying or being seriously injured, the incident will no longer be investigated by the agency where that law enforcement officer is employed.
Instead, a team of up to 10 homicide detectives from outside agencies will determine if the use of force is justified.
The new use of deadly force investigative task force can also bring forth criminal charges for the officer or deputy who acts in an unlawful manner.
“Nobody in Pinellas County gets a pass just because they happen to be a cop,” Sheriff Bob Gulatieri explained.
Gualtieri says the change comes as protesters in Tampa Bay and across the nation ask for more transparency.
“There isn’t one of us up here who wouldn’t do our moral obligation to hold a person accountable who committed a crime,” Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter added.
“If an officer or deputy does the right thing, and they rely on their responsibility and training, they’ve got nothing to worry about,” Gualtieri elaborated.
Gualtieri says the system in place up until now is reliable and does hold officers accountable, but by using outside agencies to investigate, it eliminates any perceived biases.
“The last thing any of us want is to not have it done right and then later on have someone come forward with additional information and you find out you didn’t turn that rock over and you didn’t ask the right questions,” Gualtieri added. “We cannot do our jobs effectively without community trust and we want to do everything we can to let everyone know we hear you, we’re listening and we’re taking the initiative ourselves.”
The State Attorney's Office will also continue to separately investigate deadly force incidents.
The formation of the task force comes after nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In that case, an officer is facing charges for kneeling on the neck of Floyd, an unarmed black man, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd ended up dying a short time later.
St. Petersburg Police also made recent revisions to their use of force policies making it more clear that an officer has the duty to intervene when it is safe to do so if they see another officer using too much force.