New-ish St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway told a room full of Tiger Bay Club members Wednesday that in a perfect world he'd police the community like Andy Griffith.
Which means, he said, preventing crime by knowing everyone in town.
That's why he's implemented a "park, walk and talk" program since taking the reigns of the police force of Florida's fourth-largest city. The program requires every officer, including Holloway, to stroll a neighborhood for at least an hour each week in an attempt to take down any perceived barriers between police and the communities they're supposed to serve.
“The park, walk and talk is more about, 'let's talk to you before there is a problem,'” he said. “Let's make contact with 90 percent of those people we normally don't make contact with.”
He said while there's no way to completely insulate a city from the possibility of incidents of violence like those that happened in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY, establishing a stronger line of communication between neighborhoods and police could help ease the tension.
“I think any city has a possibility of a Ferguson,” he said. “We have to be able to communicate to every person in the community about what we're doing and how we're doing it to make sure it doesn't happen.”
He said while he was Chief of Police in Clearwater, a white officer shot and killed an African-American man, and he believes the department's handling of the situation may have prevented some of the havoc seen in other communities in the wake of such incidents.
“Right after it happened, we met with community leaders and we explained to them what happened and they got that message out to the community," he said. "So, it's having the policies in places, having communication in place and building on that. Not waiting for something to happen.”
Some law enforcement officials say incorporating body cameras might reduce the risk of unnecessary police violence. Tampa is poised to start a pilot program, and Temple Terrace and Pasco County are also using them. Holloway said he thinks they're an inevitability, but he'd like to hold off until more data on their effectiveness is available.
“I think it's a great tool," he said. "I think we have a lot of work to do with that tool. And believe it or not, police body cameras are not going to do anything about doing trust. Because, if you watched the football game this past weekend, how many times was it that everybody watching instant replay saw three different things?”
He said he does support installing cameras in police cars, though.
But while he doesn't advocate an antagonistic approach to policing, he said he also doesn't want to ease up on marijuana, as has been done in cities including Tallahassee, where someone caught possessing under 20 grams of marijuana would get issued a ticket rather than arrested.
His head-scratcher of an answer? That sometimes marijuana is sold in joints laced with crack, which gets people who buy said joints addicted to crack.
“We're going to work on everything because everything works hand-in-hand,” he said. “We're going to target everything we can.”