Story By Martyn Linton
Day two of Gangs class starts at 8am. I’ve sunk a few coffees after a semi late night and I’m ready for the days learning. The learning for the day is investigative techniques, the development of intelligence and social media.
The training location is home to a number of police recruits and at the beginning of the day it is a pleasure to see the respect shown as they salute as the US flag is raised and they say their oath. The recruits have an almost regimental appearance about them. It is yes sir, immaculate uniforms, marching to class after parade and stopping to allow experienced cops to pass in hallways.
At lunchtime I was taken to a Cuban restaurant by the class instructor and two local detectives. Having never eaten Cuban food before I enjoyed the experience.
After class I was collected by Lieutenant Gary Dukeman from the St Petersburg Police Department. He is in charge of the training centre. Lt Dukeman took me on a tour of the city police HQ. As we wondered around the building it was interesting to hear how they operate and what the different teams did. I did have to giggle when I met the Chief’s PA. I was introduced as a Detective from the UK and on hearing this I learned I was not the only visitor who had visited from the UK. GMP and Cumbria had beaten me to it.
When my tour ended I met my ride along for the evening called Matt. Matt is a dog handler in the city and after introductions I looked around his patrol vehicle. The kit he was carrying would prepare most for war. I had to ask why cops in the city carried so much. It was explained that in the event of an active shooter it was all hands to the pump until SWAT could arrive. It makes sense with so many guns out there. I couldn’t help but think about useless I would be in the UK if faced with that and it was scary.
We hit the streets. We had the chat about difference in UK/US policing culture. Yes the unarmed topic came up! I had spoken about my course that I was completing in Florida. Matt took me into some gang neighbourhoods. The houses had wooden slats on the external part of the house. As we sat talking I could see several bullet holes in the wood of one house. Matt explained to me that the holes followed a drive by shooing. He also explained that the area had suffered with a number of drive by shootings which had lead to them closing the road at one end of the estate to prevent ease of access/escape. The poverty in the area could not be ignored – it hits you straight in the face.
Towards the end of the evening we heard a officer on the radio who had a male run away from him as he approached him taking drugs in a park. Unlucky for that male when he popped out at the opposite end of the park we happened to be driving past. He was detained and whilst the drugs use did not result in an arrest he still went to jail as he had a outstanding warrant!
I could have stayed out with Matt all night but I had my final day of class the following day so shortly after 10 pm we said our goodbyes outside my hotel and I went in for much needed beauty sleep.
This trip was part funded by the Lincoln Award granted by IPA Section UK. Membership of the IPA has several benefits. Visit http://www.ipa-uk.org for details and how to join.