ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The St. Petersburg Police Department took serious steps with an officer after allegations he "improperly used his taser during an arrest, violating Department policy and procedures." Chief Anthony Holloway announced Thursday he fired the officer from the department.
"I just want to make sure that we ensure the community one thing that we have a process in place here at St. Petersburg Police Department," said Holloway. "We review every use of force report that is written by an officer. We have a process in place. It worked. In this case, it definitely worked.”
According to St. Pete Police, Officer Matthew Cavinder responded to a call to trespass a panhandler at a gas station on June 20, 2021. Cavinder was sworn as a St. Pete police officer in March 2020.
Police said when he arrived, he made contact with a man, who was in a wheelchair, and learned he had outstanding warrants. During the arrest, Cavinder, "drive stunned," or tasered without prongs, the man multiple times, even though police said he was not physically resisting in a way that warranted being tasered.
“The supervisor saw something when they were reviewing the case," said Holloway. "They sent it to the Office of Professional Standards. It was reviewed by the Office of Professional Standards. It was then sent to my level. Command staff looked at it, and yesterday afternoon, I terminated this officer from the St. Petersburg Police Department because we will not tolerate this type of behavior when we’re arresting someone.”
St. Pete Police released body camera video of the incident, and the Chief reminded that officers are trained on de-escalation. Police said a report will be forwarded to the FDLE Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission to determine whether Cavinder will keep his state certification.
“Chief Holloway, and to his credit too, Sheriff Gualtieri, they’re really no nonsense when it comes to this kind of stuff. I’ve seen consistency, in terms of what they expect in terms of conduct from those that work under them," said Pastor Clarence Williams with Greater Mt. Zion AME Church. “I believe they’ve been very equitable and fair in administrating whatever they need to in terms of terminations or demotions or whatever, and I think they’re doing well."
Chief Holloway called Pastor Williams and other community leaders Thursday morning to inform them about what happened.
ABC Action News spoke to the pastor about the steps the department took and the value of transparency in policing. Williams explained our society demands that we have transparency and that we're accountable for what we do.
"If we don’t have that clear understanding that we have to be responsible and we have to be truthful, then our society is nothing but pandemonium," said Williams.