Economy making high-risk warrants more dangerous?

4:06 PM, Jan 24, 2011   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, FL -- Two deadly police shootings in four days are raising questions - not about training, dedication or heroism, but whether police officers serving arrest warrants are being given adequate protection.

"We train, we prepare, we teach, we arm them. We do what we can," said St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon.

St. Pete police join Miami-Dade, which was still mourning the deaths of two officers there last week who were also serving an arrest warrant.

Leave your condolences for the fallen police officers

In Miami, the type of warrant being served, they said, did not rise to the level of a full SWAT response. They, like the officers in St. Petersburg, were ambushed.

"This was going to be an interview," said St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster. The mayor said the shooting was not a matter of resources or training. "There was no reason to believe at that point that this suspect was even there."

Photo Gallery: Pictures from the scene of the shooting

Still, with violence escalating and budgets shrinking,  there are those who question whether those risking their lives to protect the public are getting adequate back-up and support.

"We need to do something. And if it costs some bucks because some managers or politicans want to put some palm trees down some streets versus cutbacks on hiring more cops, I think they need to re-think it," said John Kazanjian, who heads the Police Benevolent Association and is the union's president in Palm Beach County.

Kazanjian says he knows budgets are tight. But with more brazen, heavily-armed criminals out there, cities need to re-assess their priorities, he says.

And if it means spending more?

"Tough. I'd rather go home at night and see my kids and I want my members to come home at night and see their kids," he says. "And you know what? I think a lot of taxpayers wouldn't mind either. They can see what's happening."

St. Petersburg officials insist in this case it was not about money or manpower. It was an unpredictable tragedy, they say.

"We're gonna second-guess ourselves. The people there are gonna second-guess themselves," said Chief Harmon outside the hospital where the officers were pronounced dead.

"At the end of the day, the two officers who died, died heroes in my eyes."

Police Magazine reports an increasing number of police departments are coming under budget pressure because of the economy.

Several are choosing to create regional SWAT teams and multi-agency units to serve high-risk warrants.

Eric Glasser, 10 News

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