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Fla. police add duty-to-intervene policy

New department policies require officers to step in if they witness an colleague engaging in wrongdoing

Kathryn Varn and Peter Talbot
Tampa Bay Times

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Police Chief Anthony Holloway announced Monday that he added a policy that officers have a duty to intervene if they see a colleague engaging in wrongdoing.

The addition marks the first concrete policy change since hundreds of demonstrators in St. Petersburg — joining groups nationwide — began protesting racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death last month at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Previously, the St. Petersburg Police Department had rules requiring officers to notify a supervisor of any policy violations by their colleagues and to “take necessary action” if a colleague violates a law or local ordinance. The new rule requires officers to intervene in the moment:

“Officers have a duty to intervene to prevent or stop wrongdoing by another officer when it is safe and reasonable to do so,” it says, according to a department news release.

The policy carries a special significance following Floyd’s death. Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for close to 9 minutes as Floyd begged for his life. Three other officers — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — were on the scene and didn’t intervene.

All four officers were fired. Prosecutors charged Chauvin with murder four days after Floyd’s death. The remaining officers were charged days later, all on counts of aiding and abetting murder.

St. Petersburg Officer Jonathan Vazquez, president of the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association, said the policy addition is supported by union members.

“This has been the common practice at SPPD for as long as I’ve been here,” Vazquez said in a text message.