Thugs in Uniforms

St. Petersburg (FL) police and fire department personnel destroy private property while hassling the homeless.

City officials are being criticized after a raid in which police slashed and tore apart tents at homeless camps near downtown.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker said he was not aware that the city’s police chief and one of his deputy mayors had planned Friday’s raid.

“What we saw on Friday night was an embarrassment for this city,” St. Petersburg City Council member Jamie Bennett said.


A video of the raid posted on the Web site shows police officers using scissors, knives and box cutters to tear up tents, some with occupants still inside.

Police Chief Chuck Harmon, Deputy Mayor David Metz and other city officials decided to cut up tents if the residents refused to take them down.

“In hindsight we didn’t discuss the actual property issue, and we probably should have taken that into consideration,” Harmon said. “I think the perception was not good of how and what we did. I hope there’s no need to ever do that again.”

Some homeless advocates have threatened legal action. The raids came three days after the community was rattled by the still unsolved murders of two homeless men.

“I was devastated,” said Raymond Young, 66, whose tent was cut apart in the raid. “I didn’t know how they could do something like this.”


10 thoughts on “Thugs in Uniforms

  1. Bloody hell.
    When a French homeless people’s activist died (look up Abbe Pierre), they virtually gave him a state funeral. There are tent cities on the Rive Gauche and even the toryish UMP is considering making housing a legal right.
    And meanwhile the StP mayor doesn’t even _know_ when his chief of police and a deputy-mayor pull something like this.
    Home of the free indeed.

  2. It’s only fair. Everybody’s equal under the law, and if Police Chief Chuck Harmon and Deputy Mayor David Metz were homeless and living in tents, they would cut their own tents up themselves.
    I have no doubt they’d not only comply but be first in line with the box cutters. Then maybe when everyone’s tents were rags and tatters the Deputy Mayor and the Police Chief could also slit their own wrists, to set a good example for us all.
    “The law in its infinite majesty . . . forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.”

  3. Dontcha just love it when the folks clamoring for the rule of law are the ones breaking it? Idiots. Even if you’re against having tent cities (and if you are, please consider providing an alternative–thanx), this isn’t the way to go about getting rid of them.

  4. Authoritarian abuse shows up as much in the aftermath as the act. It never occurred to them that there would be repercussions to them for abusing homeless people. They hope they don’t have to punish these people for disobedience again. It boggles the mind.

  5. That’s disgusting. These people ought to be forced to resign.
    I hope some hungry lawyer takes up the rights of the homeless.

  6. St. Pete has a history of refusing to acknowledge it has poverty, much less homeless issues. When they tore down more than 10 blocks of low income housing to build a stadium to lure a major league team to town, they were shocked to find they had a homelessness problem afterwards.* Community stress came to a head with a riot in 1996 after the shooting of a black motorist by a white cop.
    Florida has a lot of things going for it, but the brilliance of its police and politicos is not among them.
    *The stadium was a dud – it took them ten years to get a franchise, the Devil Rays, which have an average attendance of 17k in a dome that seats 43,500. (Earth to St. Pete: when a significant plurality of your population is a mix of elderly, poor, and non-native, you’re unlikely to support a MLB franchise; and, whose idea was it to build a covered stadium in FLORIDA?)

  7. “In hindsight we didn’t discuss the actual property issue” –
    You expect me to believe that the Police didn’t know that they can’t destroy personal property. They may have had some grounds to confiscate – but when they confiscate they are taking responsibility for its safety.
    With the person announcing rather loudly that they are recording this and the city officials continuing their action, you expect me to believe that this was done without malice and without being high-handed and that the city acts in a fair manner?
    You expect me to believe that the Mayor wouldn’t haul the Police chief and deputy Mayor on the carpet if they had done this without the Mayor’s knowledge?

  8. “In hindsight we didn’t discuss the actual property issue”
    I wonder if I robbed a bank how far I’d get with that excuse.

  9. St. Petersburg police ignore the Constitution

    Apparently the cops in St. Petersburg are tired of protecting retirees, so they’ve moved on to wanton destruction of property:
    Mayor Rick Baker says he had no idea that top city officials, including the police chief and one of his deputy mayors, p…

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