St. Pete police chase policy has little effect so far - WFLA News Channel 8

St. Pete police chase policy has little effect so far

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By Mark Douglas

St. Petersburg police have enacted a new police pursuit policy with little fanfare and so far only one chase.

As it turns out, that pursuit on April 1, the same day the policy took effect, would have happened under the old policy too. It involved a suspect threatening a man with a handgun and even firing the weapon out of the back window of his car.

The new rules now allow officers to pursue criminals suspected of "forcible felonies" as well as the "violent felonies" that could trigger chases under the old policy.

"These are really bad people," said St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who pushed for the change as part of his election campaign last fall.

The new policy means such things as burglaries, arson and even treason can now result in a pursuit if police supervisors believe the risk doesn't outweigh the need to catch criminals who are trying to get away in vehicles.

"I think the public interest is served to pursue these people when the risk is low," Foster said.
But the idea of expanding police pursuits still riles council member Leslie Curran, who has spoken out against it for months.

"I don't know why we have to change it," she said.

Curran insists that most other police departments are becoming more restrictive with chases because of the danger to innocent bystanders.

"I don't think chasing after anybody and risking the life of a teenager or anyone else is really worth changing the policy we have," she said.

"She's is certainly entitled to her opinion," Foster said. "We are tracking the state statute as to when pursuits are authorized."

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