In St. Petersburg, Florida, Officer Thad “Stu” Crisco is under investigation after a supervisor learned that he told the father of a robbery victim that one part of town was a bit dangerous for his 16-year-old daughter to be hanging around after she was robbed. Crisco has an unblemished record, but he is being hammered for the well-intentioned advice. In his comments in the article below,
Mayor Bill Foster does not appear to be concerned about an officer being disciplined for simply informing a parent about a rough area. He stated “I always want to know my officers are representing this city in a very positive light.” Well, how about a positive statement like “hey, you know this area excels in robberies and is second to none in homicides.”
Crisco was warning St. Petersburg father Bob Esposito about letting his 16-year-old daughter hang around a pool at night after she was robbed with five other teens at 10:30 p.m. He simply said “I wouldn’t come down here at night. Esposito mentioned to another officer that he used to loiter in the area as a teen “and I was told by one of the police officers not to come down here either.” That was enough to launch an investigation for “disparaging comments against the city.”
Esposito was thankful that the officer cared enough to warn him. It sends a troubling message to officers that they could be suspended if they go out of their way in dealing with citizens. It suggests that officers should just keep their mouthes shut when they see a potentially dangerous situation for a citizen. In Chicago, I recall a case when one of my sisters took a wrong turn and got lost in the area around Cabrini Green Housing Project. Two officers (both African American) actually stopped her, warned her about the danger, and escorted her out of the area. There had been a number of white people attacked in the area which was one of the most dangerous places in Chicago. It was a disturbing racial reality. However, these officers did not want to see her end up as a statistic and decided to take the time to show her the way back to the freeway. I realize that such warnings can have racial undertones, particularly when there is a problem of officers enforcing a type of segregation (particularly in harassing minorities in largely white areas). Yet, the officers wanted to warn my sister of the dangers in light of prior attacks and, if she wanted to leave the area, to help her out. We were grateful to them.
Crisco cared enough that he wanted the father to understand the risks for his daughter in the area. His priority was the safety of the citizen not the sensibilities of city officials. The fact that a supervisor would even order an investigation (and that Foster — shown right — would appear to defend the action) is astonishing. If Mayor Foster wants to accent the positive, he can do so. However, officers are sworn to protect citizens and should be commended (not condemned) for efforts to inform parents of risks to their children.