The shooting death of Tymar Crawford in July continues to loom over City Hall, and is expected to do that into the near future at least.
Crawford, 28, was shot five times by Pensacola police detective Daniel Siemen following a slow-speed chase and confrontation near downtown. A grand jury last month declined to file criminal charges.
“Our main issue here is to take care of the city of Pensacola and promote what is right, and that’s by doing about everything else,” said the Mayor. “You have a lot of other fringe characters who have their agenda to do and they’ll continue to produce that.”
At his weekly news conference on Monday, Mayor Grover Robinson said one of the actions by his administration was to hire a Tallahassee legal firm – Sniffen and Spellman – to help sort out the legal issues surrounding the case, in the event of a lawsuit against the city by the Crawford family. The Mayor also had praise for City Attorney Susan Woolf, who actually made the hire.
“I think Susan has done a great job of representing us and she continues to do that,” Robinson said. “We’ve always said when certain things get out of our realm of what we’re used to doing day-to-day, and certainly as we look at this case that’s associated around the shooting, [that] was one of those things.”
Sniffen and Spellman, says Robinson, recommended that the city hire a public relations firm connected to the law firm, as a safeguard if the case were to gain national attention. But that never came to fruition.
“We did do some basic planning in the beginning; and that’s all the work that we did,” said Robinson. “And it ended up that none of those things [happened]. You plan, sometime they happen sometimes they don’t; it didn’t happen [and] we didn’t utilize them any more outside of that. Now [Sniffen and Spellman] will continue to be involved in any civil litigation if there is civil litigation.”
Robinson and city neighborhoods administrator Lawrence Powell also plan to meet with Cedric Alexander, a nationally-known expert on law enforcement who is retired and living in Pensacola.
“He has a wealth of knowledge and is willing talk with us and kind of give us some advice on some things; it’s one of those things that we’ll continue to work through and see what we can do,” said Robinson. “We’re trying to get as much advice, make sure we build the team that we need to for the citizens.”
Work is continuing on bringing back a citizens advisory panel to work with the police department, similar to the one set up some years ago. But the mayor adds things already are on the move.
“I really appreciate where we’re going with the police department; we’re trying to improve relationships,” Robinson said. “We’ve discussed where we are in the new fiscal year with bike patrols, we want to continue to extend that to West Side [and] some of the other things as we can. So we’re going to try to do everything we can to build a better relationship between our police and our communities.”
The other issue stemming from the Crawford shooting is having federal agencies – FBI, DEA, and others – come to Pensacola and provide some training for the police department. The mayor says they plan to meet again with U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe.
“We’ve been in and out of town with several things going on, on our end; that relationship continues to work between the PPD and their offices,” the mayor said. [Keefe] was supposed to come to town; then he couldn’t come and we went out of town. And so it’s just been a calendar issue.”
For now, there are no set timelines either for the citizens’ advisory board or for federal involvement in police training.
“We’re evaluating it and I think we can do something certainly by next spring into summer we should have something,” said Robinson. “But again, we are looking at whether it would be more than just dealing with police. And I think there’s a good idea that we should be doing more than just law enforcement.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Sieman is appealing his termination to the Pensacola PD, and if necessary, to the city itself.