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Fired FL Chief Defends Decision to Skip Fallen Officer's Funeral

Fired FL Chief Defends Decision to Skip Fallen Officer's Funeral

[Press Conference Video Capture]

Tampa Bay Tribune via YellowBrix

March 07, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG — Goliath Davis III, whose rise to the top of his hometown Police Department and City Hall made him the city’s most influential African-American official, was fired by Mayor Bill Foster this week.

Davis said the mayor wanted him out because he did not attend Tuesday’s funeral for the third officer killed in the city in 28 days. Yet the former police chief did go to the funeral of the convict who killed the first two officers.

Foster said he “lost confidence” in Davis to perform his duties as senior administrator of community enrichment. Davis ignoring Foster’s order to attend Officer David S. Crawford’s funeral was “a straw,” he said.

Davis, who admits he has always been a “lightning rod,” said he went to the convict’s funeral to support his family — not the killer. He acknowledged ignoring the mayor’s recent request, saying he paid his respects to the families at the officers’ wakes.

It wasn’t until a Friday news conference — after weeks of media scrutiny and pointed criticism — that Davis offered his first public explanation for missing the funerals:

Attending would have reminded Davis too much of his good friend, the last officer to die in the line of duty 30 years ago: Detective Herbert R. Sullivan.

“I can tell you all that when the two officers were killed, for me it was three,” Davis said. "Because not only did I have to deal with two deaths, I had to deal with the death of Herbert Ray Sullivan.

“Then when Crawford was killed, for me, it wasn’t three deaths. It was four.”

Foster fired Davis on Wednesday, Davis’ 60th birthday, but it didn’t come out until Friday.

During the news conference, as Davis announced the end of his 37 years in public service, he seemed at times like a reverend preaching to a loyal congregation. More than 150 people packed the Enoch Davis Center to hear his farewell, punctuating Davis’ words with applause and shouts of approval.

Then after the cameras left, after he was done shaking hands and posing for pictures, Davis revealed the compromise he asked city Administrator Tish Elston to deliver to the mayor:

Let him stay on three months to finish one last project, then he’ll announce his retirement and leave City Hall quietly.

Davis said Elston delivered Foster’s answer:

“He wants you out by the close of business Friday.”

• • •

Foster and Davis were always an unlikely pair.

They butted heads back when Foster was on the City Council and Davis was police chief.

There was that memorable council workshop in 2000, when Foster supported a review of the Police Department and Davis’ managerial style. Davis said the force didn’t need another review and questioned Foster’s motives.

“It doesn’t have to be personal,” Foster said, according to a St. Petersburg Times account.

“Don’t insult me,” replied Davis. “That’s all I’m saying. . . .”

Foster made a sarcastic comment as Davis left the room.

“Don’t say nothin’ to me, councilman,” Davis said. “Nothin’.”

During the 2009 mayoral campaign, Foster talked about how the city didn’t need three deputy mayors, but kept Davis anyway.

Davis became Foster’s senior administrator of community enrichment, paid $152,735 annually to oversee Midtown, the business assistance center and community development.

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