BELLEAIR - On December 4 Tom Edwards will be sworn in as Belleair's police chief.
Edwards, 56, has been in law enforcement serving in St Petersburg's police department for 32 years, with the past 21 specializing as a hostage negotiator. Edwards trained with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Florida Association of Hostage Negotiators. He is also highly trained in suicide prevention and also worked in St Pete's department as a detective in the narcotics and vice unit, and as a shift lieutenant and sector commander.
Edwards was born and raised in Pinellas County and attended Bishop Berry High School, now St Petersburg Catholic. He received an associate's of arts degree in police administration from St Petersburg Junior College and a Bachelor of Science in criminology from Florida State and has completed graduate course work in criminology and police administration at the University of South Florida.
The beginning of his administration will find Edwards building the new agency and forging relationships with residents. He has started already. "As a matter of fact, I'm going up there Wednesday to look over the equipment and meet with the acting Lieutenant," he said.
The new chief may get technical assistance for his department from the Pinellas County Sheriff's office if the town commission decides to maintain 911 emergency dispatch services and records management through it. Edwards said one of the first things he'll do is hire a permanent LT and begin the process of hiring five officers to man the town's department.
"The ideal situation would be to hire retired officers who have experience and good communication skills to work in the community… retired officers who can get out there and interact with residents, perform home security duties and crime inspections," said Edwards.
Since policing calls for a wide range of skills for patrol operations such as crisis management, and community involvement, hiring reliable veterans with experience who are already trained and possess communication skills for community policing makes sense in a town like Belleair.
The officers would have general law enforcement duties, specific to the type of law enforcing Belleair requires, such as maintaining regular patrols, responding to calls for service, and directing traffic at the scene of an accident.
Hiring officers new to law enforcement would require them to receive training and supervised experience in patrol, traffic control, use of firearms, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response. Says Edwards, "There's a progressive stage in training new officers. They gain experience from responding to calls, and their performance is evaluated during them. If you don't have that type of crime the training opportunities aren't there."
Belleair has little crime. The town hasn't had a robbery in 3 years, which is one of the reasons Edwards applied for the job. He said, "I'm very pleased to come to work in a small community that has a low crime rate. I'll be there to serve the needs of the residents and my department will strive to keep the response time down."
Edwards is married and resides in St Petersburg. He has two adult children.
Aside from policing, he keeps busy and gives back to the community he calls home. "I do a lot of community service work in St Pete. I volunteer for "Paint St Pete Proud" and "Ramp Up St Pete", building access ramps for the homes of impaired persons."
Tuesday members of the St Pete police department gave Edwards a send off.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition