Park, Walk and Talk

On the ground
Park, Walk and Talk is a Community Policing program aiming to build relationships with the citizens in St. Petersburg.

Shortly after taking over as chief of police, Anthony Holloway initiated a department community policing policy called, “Park, Walk & Talk (PWT).” It requires all sworn officers to park their cruisers, walk the area they patrol, and talk to residents. The purpose is to build relationships with the citizens they serve.

Officers must log in to the computer that they are doing a PWT for one hour every week, and it is tracked through the computer system. The way it is implemented allows officers some flexibility, as they can choose the best time to put in the hour. Officers are encouraged to choose neighborhoods where crime has occurred recently, or where there are specific concerns. While one hour a week may not seem like a lot of time, when you have more than 550 sworn officers, it adds up to quite a bit of positive interaction with residents.

Over the years, the department has made several attempts at community policing. But in the past, it was usually assigned to a specific squad, or group of officers, and it was concentrated in a specific area of the city. PWT is citywide and gives every resident the opportunity to meet an officer face to face in a more casual context, and not simply when something bad has occurred.

In some areas, where officers in the past have only gone to make an arrest, PWT provides a friendly and personal contact. Residents can get to know the officer and identify him/her by name. Eventually it fosters trust and residents are more likely to have confidence in law enforcement and may pass along tips about crime and other concerns in their neighborhoods.

In the 18 months since PWT was initiated, it has been well received throughout the city. Residents have commented favourably and can’t seem to get enough PWTs in their neighborhoods. Not only do citizens see officers as individuals that they can relate to, but it also helps the officers feel more comfortable talking to the people they serve.

It has been so successful, it inspired a special partnership with the St. Petersburg based Major League Baseball Team, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays offered police free game vouchers to hand out to residents during PWTs. The program, called “Park Walk & Cheer”, allows officers to give vouchers to needy children, teens, and adults who have done something positive to improve their lives and those around them. The vouchers are used as conversation-starters for officers during a PWT, and helps them build relationships and reinforce good behavior.

In 2015, officers completed 16,082 "Park, Walk and Talks." The companion “Park, Walk and Cheer!” initiative resulted in the distribution of 770 tickets during the 2015 Rays Season.

This cornerstone of Chief Holloway’s leadership has set the tone for the entire department. PWT is a philosophy of making service to the community about positive interaction and personal involvement with the people they’ve sworn to protect.