As head of the third largest police department in Hillsborough County, TPA Police Chief Paul Sireci has his hands full every day. But that didn’t stop him from seeking a leadership position in the Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA), the fourth largest organization of its kind in the United States.
“I wanted to make a difference in a positive way,” Chief Sireci says. “I wanted to get good legislation in place that provided protections for the citizens of the entire state and I wanted to make sure we had good modern practices and training in place for law enforcement officers so they could deliver service in a positive way.”
Sireci just completed his term as president of the FPCA. A major goal during his tenure was to use technology to improve the way the organization did business. For the FPCA, that meant using video feeds and web conferencing to conduct meetings with law enforcement officials from all across the state.
“It allowed all of the members to stay at their departments and be accessible instead of traveling,” Sireci said.
He also organized health, wellness and safety training for officers that focused on everything from proper diet to protective vests. And when a newspaper called to his attention its research on the involvement of law enforcement officers in traffic crashes, he launched a review of the problem and was instrumental in getting the Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Sheriff’s Association involved.
The partnership resulted in the creation of the Florida Law Enforcement Driving Task Force, which is scheduled to deliver recommendations next summer.
“They’re taking a look at how we can stop crime without putting the public’s life in jeopardy,” Chief Sireci said. “Our own chase policy at the airport is very restrictive. We look at it as a use of force.”
Sireci said one of the most rewarding functions as president was his time on the Innocence Commission, a task force set up by the Florida Legislature to find ways to make sure the innocent are protected and the guilty end up behind bars.
“It’s more than protecting people from being falsely convicted of crimes,” he said. “It’s also for the victims who need closure. If the wrong person goes to jail, then is exonerated, whatever sense of closure they had is no longer there.”
After completing his work with the FPCA and the Commission, Sireci received letters of commendation from Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Florida’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady.
His job isn’t complete. He will serve through October 2012 on the International Association of Chiefs of Police Wrongful Convictions Task Force, and will assist with the transition to new leadership at the FPCA.
Sireci has worked at Tampa International Airport since 2002. Before that, he worked at the Memphis Airport Police Department. He started his law enforcement career in Naples, Florida, in 1973.
“What I like about law enforcement is that it’s a lot like athletics,” said Sireci, who played college basketball. “It’s competitive between you and the bad guys, and you get to match wits. I also like solving crimes.”
He also finds that he has made a big difference in people’s lives over the years.
“I’ve actually had people I’ve arrested thank me for turning their lives around,” he said.