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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mayor-elect, police chief meet ... and that's it



ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayor-elect Bill Foster and Police Chief Chuck Harmon met Tuesday morning and chatted -- and that's all they did.

The incoming mayor and the incumbent chief met didn't make any decisions about the future of of the St. Petersburg Police Department, Harmon said. They didn't discuss policy or reconcile their differing opinions of how to best police the city.

At least not yet.

"It was a good philosophical discussion," Harmon said. "We took an hour to talk about (city) issues. We said we'd work hard for the future and we look forward to working together and that's it."

Which means that, as expected, Harmon will remain as police chief.

During the campaign Foster said he has "100 percent" confidence in the chief. Harmon also signaled that he was far more willing to work with Foster than his opponent, Kathleen Ford.

But Foster and Harmon differ on several key policing issues.

It was Ford who actually supported Harmon's chase policy, which allows officers to engage in high-speed pursuits to chase violent or dangerous suspects, but not burglars or car thieves.

Foster, though, said he'd loosen up the policy to give officers more discretion to chase suspects. That's what the police unions want, and they backed Foster.

Foster also wants a return of the old community policing model, where certain neighborhoods were assigned their own individual officers. Harmon changed the program in 2006, saying it was inefficient and hurt morale.

The current model spreads community policing responsibilities among several units, including patrol officers. Changing back to the old model, though, could require hiring more officers.

But none of those issues came up Tuesday, the chief said. They talked more about the direction of the city then the direction of the Police Department.

"I'm very encouraged by my conversation with Mr. Foster," Harmon said. "He seems to be very flexible. I think there's some room for common ground on both sides."

Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:17pm]


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