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With Just Getting Started, Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Dr. Kanika Tomalin is “telling the St. Pete story” through one-on-one conversations with change-makers. With many exciting plans and projects on the horizon, St. Petersburg’s upward trajectory remains strong. “So much has been done, but here’s the secret: We’re just getting started.”

09/12/2020 | Episode 07 | 21:58

Just Getting Started: Public safety and the police

Just Getting Started: Public safety and the police

Dr. Tomalin's guest is Antonio "Tony" Gilliam, St. Petersburg's assistant police chief. They discuss the CAL (Community Assistance Liaison) program, which will augment the police by retaining a social service agency to respond to non-violent calls for service from the public (the pilot program begins Oct. 1). The discussion turns to the national "defund the police" movement (not happening with the St. Pete force), and Chief Holloway's "Park, Walk and Talk" initiative. Getting out of their squad cars and meeting people in the various neighborhoods, Gilliam says, "is the very foundation of law enforcement. Because if they don't know you, and you don't know them, then what are you doing?"

Key Insights

  • A native of Tallahassee, Gilliam has been on the St. Pete police force for almost 20 years.
  • Calls that involve mental health are often unsatisfactory for the police. "You walk away feeling the job is left undone," Gilliam reports.
  • By sending in armed response, these calls have become "criminalized, in a sense," he says, when what's called for are "experts in that field - not just mental health, but drug addiction, children and families in need of services."
  • Dr. Tomalin: "The decriminalization of these issues will go a long way towards the restoration of trust between the police and the community that you've been sworn to protect and serve."
  • Between 12,000 and 14,000 calls per year are non-violent, non-police calls, according to St. Pete PD research. "That's about five percent of our total calls each year."
  • Based on questions for the 911 caller, a determination will be made if police or CAL response is necessary.
  • For a period of time, CAL team responders will be accompanied by police officers. "That way, we can be reassured that they're safe ... and once we know that we're able to triage these calls correctly, the ultimate goal is to separate us from these calls completely."
  • The current police force includes 575 officers. "I never thought I'd see that day where we had that many officers," Gilliam says. "With any growing city, you have to grow your force."
  • "Everyone needs to realize this is a pilot program. So as with any pilot, you will never have all the answers before you roll out the program ... you have to evolve and grow that program based upon lessons learned.""

Dr. Tomalin’s guest is Antonio “Tony” Gilliam, St. Petersburg’s assistant police chief. They discuss the CAL (Community Assistance Liaison) program, which will augment the police by retaining a social service agency to respond to non-violent calls for service from the public (the pilot program begins Oct. 1). The discussion turns to the national “defund the police” movement (not happening with the St. Pete force), and Chief Holloway’s “Park, Walk and Talk” initiative. Getting out of their squad cars and meeting people in the various neighborhoods, Gilliam says, “is the very foundation of law enforcement. Because if they don’t know you, and you don’t know them, then what are you doing?”

Some of these calls, we're just not equipped to handle - not in terms of our professionalism or training, but we usually don't come with PhDs or Masters degrees. We're not clinicians or licensed mental health professionals."

We want to be sure that when you call law enforcement to a scene, we are able to resolve that problem."

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2 Reviews on this article

Rose Smith-Hayes
12. 09 2020, 09:51:4747
I have concerns about the issue of Police on mental health calls when there is No weapon. I always wonder why folk do not call the Paramedics first. Mental Health is a Medical/Social issue when there is no weapon/threat. I do not see reallocating the funds as a negative and I am happy to see some concern for attempts to save lives.
Brad Banks
12. 09 2020, 03:07:2020
Your article says “ The discussion turns to the national "defund the police" movement (not happening with the St. Pete force), ”. But I read an article on this website about a month ago that said St Pete Police Department was taking a large very large sum of money that was meant to hire new officers and putting it towards social programs which of course is what BLM is asking for. What am I missing here? That certainly seems like you’re part of defunding the police…

About the host

Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a thought leader, policy-maker, community ambassador, and health advocate.

As the first African-American, female Deputy Mayor and City Administrator of one of Florida’s largest cities, Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a role model for women from all walks of life and an advocate for innovative policies, equitable community revitalization, healthy families, at-risk youth and education.

Her signature initiative, Healthy St. Pete, which launched in 2014, has made community health a priority and impacts the lives of thousands of Sunshine City residents. By creating access to healthy food options, implementing free fitness zones in city parks and adding resources for individuals and families to make healthy living easier – Dr. Tomalin has made a tangible difference.

Dr. Tomalin’s understanding of the critical role health plays as a determinant of overall quality of life was shaped prior to her career in the public sector. She quickly climbed the ranks in the healthcare industry, most recently serving as the regional vice president of External Affairs for the Bayfront Health Network and director of Strategy for Health Management Associates’ 23-hospital Florida Group.


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