ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A great leader, both in the police force and in the community.

  • Community celebrates life of Freddie Crawford 
  • Crawford died on May 17 at the age of 81
  • Crawford shaped community policing in St. Pete

“He policed with humility, compassion, tolerance, and a lot of patience,” said Goliath Davis, former St. Petersburg police chief.

“He helped everybody. He didn’t care what color you were or anything like that,” said Michael LeFlore, officer with the Miami Dade Department of Corrections.

Which makes saying that final goodbye to Freddie Crawford all the more bittersweet.

Hundreds packed a St. Petersburg church on Saturday to pay their respects, but many who worked with him say they owe him so much more.

“I became the embodiment of their dreams, so it was incumbent upon me as an officer, and more importantly as an administrator, to ensure that everything they hoped for and worked for was going to be realized,” said Davis.

Davis became the first black police chief in St. Petersburg in 1997, 32 years after Freddie and 11 other St. Petersburg police officers, known as the “Courageous 12”, filed suit against the city for fair and equal treatment.

“It wasn’t just about a job, but their lives and livelihood were threatened, but they forgot about that. They just wanted to do the right thing,” said Davis.

The group won its case three years later, paving the way for African-Americans in law enforcement.

But he didn’t stop there.

Freddie continued his career, becoming the first black director of the Miami Dade Department of Corrections.

And the people he led there say he left a lasting impact on how they police every day.

“When you meet someone, you don’t treat them as strangers. You don’t know who that person is. And you’re able to talk to them and mentor them and show them the way. That’s what I do. Because of him,” said LeFlore.

Freddie died on May 17 at the age of 81, but it is clear his memory will live on forever.

(CORRECTION: Previous headline stating former 'Police Chief Freddie Crawford' changed to reflect correct title of St. Pete police officer.)