This is the blog for Robert Vincent, Chief of Police for the Gulfport (Florida) Police Department. Please feel free to leave comments, but keep in mind that anything appearing on this page may be subject to retention and disclosure in accordance with Florida public records law.

Please keep your posts clean and respectful. Comments are subject to review, and I do not permit lewdness, obscenity, or personal attacks.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Setting the Record Straight

Last month, a young Gulfport resident was beaten by three older students on a school bus. News of this incident has been widely reported, and since a version of a local report was carried nationally by CNN, I have been overwhelmed with e-mails and phone calls from those who have been misled to think that I and the Gulfport Police Department have spoken ill of the bus driver.

Please allow me the opportunity to set the record straight.

I did a recorded interview with WFLA Tampa reporter, Yolanda Fernandez. I agreed to do the interview because I had received several questions from concerned people who had seen the video footage and wanted to know if we were going to criminally charge the bus driver. Having seen the video myself, I thought this was a reasonable concern and wanted to address it publicly.

When Ms. Fernandez’s story aired, I considered it an accurate representation of our conversation. I had explained during the interview that we would be referring the matter to the state attorney’s office for evaluation of charges. I said that, while I understood the bus driver’s decision not to get physically involved in the situation, the evidence indicated that he did not take action where it seemed clear that he could have. For example, the attack began after the bus was stopped, and the victim was beaten almost continuously for 64 seconds before the driver said something to the assailants. As soon as he did, they discontinued their attack. Imagine if he’d said something sooner. When the criminals fled the bus out the emergency exit, the victim lay out of sight underneath the seats. The driver, who had previously acknowledged to dispatch that he thought the boy was going to be killed, remained standing at the front of the bus.

When the state attorney’s office indicated it was not going to charge the driver with a crime, another WFLA reporter, Peter Bernard, did a follow up story. Unfortunately, what appeared on air included a heavily edited version of my statement. It appeared as though I was personally criticizing the bus-driver for not trying to step in and fight off the attackers. It was this particular version of the story that was picked up and re-aired by CNN and others without benefit of any follow up questions.

So I’m now left with the task of clarifying things on a very large scale. Essentially, this is what I have to make clear: I would not expect anybody who does not feel capable to physically intervene against three, violent teens. I completely understand and accept this bus driver’s decision not to do so.

Before I close, I think it is worth mentioning that the Gulfport Police Department did not reveal the identity of the bus driver. Until they became public record under Florida law, we did not release any documents with the driver’s name. We also did not mention his name in any news interviews or media releases, and his face was not visible in the video footage that we released. I presume his identity was learned via the Pinellas school board, and then it was revealed publicly by the television news.


  1. KUDO'S to you, Chief Vincent, for taking it upon yourself to fight the battle of skewed news reporting. It happens on a regular basis and sadly, so often, results in hindering investigations. I wish you Godspeed in your job, as well as in your efforts to level the playing field of public opinion (media based) vs. fact.

    Thank you!

  2. Nicely said. The media is great at chopping a story to sensationize it. Damn the facts, full speed ahead attitude. Keeps there readers and viewers engaged with the story. Good Job Chief !!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I just saw the attack video. It is my opinion that the bus driver SHOULD have intervened to stop the attack. If he and the three attackers were white and the one kid was black they would all be charged with a race crime. I also believe that the three hoodlums who attacked the kid should be charged with a race crime. Clearly if it were three whites on one black kid, the NAACP and everyone else in the country would be screaming for justice.

  4. You wanted a senior citizen to engage with three 15 year old thugs that would have just beat him just as bad or worse then they did the victim how about investigate why the school let them ride home on the same bus as him they should have known that something would happen

  5. I have seen the video, and, speaking as a white male who has had the snot kicked out of me by black teens like this, the only way I would have intervened in this beating would have been if I was armed with a gun.

    Like George Zimmerman was.

    For the same reason.

  6. Sir, with all due respect, you failed to recognize the racial issues associated with the brutal attack on the school bus. Your attempt to satisfy the politically correct members of your city during the news conference only demonstrates your not in touch with potentially dangerous social needs of your community and want to be popular, non-committed and evade public safety responsibilities as a whole. Please consider being forthright, seek solutions and being accountable to all your citizens. Chief your capable of better performance so let's see it. Have a set and stand up for justice. Your school safety, drug task force, gang prevention officer, community resource officer, and juvenile probation officer should have been all over this in a proactive sense. IACP mentors are available with 30+ years experience. Sincerely, ret CHIEF

  7. Are Bus Drivers trained to deal with matters such as this?
    If not, then given the legal and liability issues that some smart ass lawyer will always raise one is damned if one intervenes and damned if one does not.
    What happens next to these three boys (who should be in jail for hate crimes) will determine just how serious people truly are. The less that is done to these three criminals then the more justified the bus driver is for doing nothing as well. So, until we see the public outcry against these three, the bus driver is NOT to blame anymore than the rest of us are ... who because we say nothing, do nothing, hear nothing allow these criminals and encourage them to become worse and more controlling in our life while the legal system blindly turns the other way