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Bill Foster: "It is not 'game on' in St. Petersburg"



ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayor Bill Foster, who was the star of Tuesday's Tiger Bay luncheon, spent much of the time talking public safety.

Forgoing the traditional speech format, Foster choose to take on one-word topics shouted out by the audience. Up first: the police chase policy.

Foster and Police Chief Chuck Harmon recently announced a change in the police pursuit policy that would allow officers to chase burglars, which, in certain circumstances, would include car thieves.

The St. Petersburg NAACP recently came out against the change, saying it would endanger the public. In a letter to the editor, Ray Tampa criticized Sgt. Karl Lounge for using the phrase "game on" in a Times' story about the changes to the chase policy. (Read that story here.)

Foster said he agreed with Tampa, in that chases should not endanger the public and police should not be engaged in high-speed pursuits through neighborhood streets. He, too, took Lounge to task for his word choice.

"It is not game on. We're not going to have recklessness in the city of St. Petersburg," Foster said.

However, he defended the change, saying the ability to pursue more criminals was a needed tool in the department's tool box. The department's policy, even with the change, is still among the most restrictive in the Tampa Bay area, he said.

"It will not make our citizens less safe," he said. "It will make the criminals less safe."

Foster also talked about his proposal to put security cameras in high-crime areas and returning to a less manpower-intense form of community policing.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:26pm]


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