Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Police chief, new mayor set to discuss crime plans in February

ST. PETERSBURG — Police Chief Chuck Harmon said he and Mayor-elect Bill Foster have set a date to start hashing out their differences over how to best police the city.

And they're going to invite 100 or so members of the public and the St. Petersburg Police Department to help them figure it out.

Harmon said they'll convene a community retreat in February to discuss the new mayor's crime platform — not all of which jibes with the chief's own crime-fighting beliefs.

Community retreats are the chief's modus operandi. Whenever Harmon wants to change policy, he invites select residents and leaders to discuss the changes with his officers.

He held one in 2005 when he wanted to arm his officers with Tasers, and another in 2006 to change community policing.

"The mayor talked during the campaign about transparency and inclusiveness, giving everyone a seat at the table," Harmon said. "In this case, they literally will be sitting at a table, talking about these issues."

The mayor and chief have a lot to talk about. Despite their professed desire to work together during the campaign, both men stood on opposite sides of key policing issues.

Foster supported a return to the community policing model where officers are assigned to certain neighborhoods. Harmon took away those neighborhood officers three years ago, saying he had to streamline the old model to boost efficiency and morale.

The mayor-elect also said he wanted to loosen the pursuit policy, giving officers more freedom to decide which criminals to chase. Harmon said the current policy, which allows officers to only chase violent offenders, is safer for police and the public.

But Foster said the two may be closer on those issues now than they were before the election.

The mayor-elect said "80 percent" of the public safety portion of his campaign platform will be implemented. But he didn't say which 80 percent. During the campaign he stressed focusing on smaller crimes to prevent bigger ones; using city employees as a crime watch; and installing security cameras in "hot spots."

But he also said the chief is tutoring him in crime fighting.

"I'm learning how much I didn't know about policing," Foster said. "As I've told the chief, I have 100 percent confidence in him, and he will run the department."

As for community policing, the mayor-elect said he and the chief may be on the verge of a compromise, though he wouldn't reveal any details.

"We're spending a lot of time discussing what community policing is going to look like," Foster said, "and I'm excited because we've found a meeting of the minds as to what it should look like."

The chief signaled that he's also willing to change his mind, perhaps at that February retreat. But he offered no specifics, either.

"I think I've always shown that if somebody can show me a better way, without jeopardizing safety, then I'm willing to look and listen and learn and change."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at or (727) 893-8472.

Police chief, new mayor set to discuss crime plans in February 12/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 12:37am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Protectors of Confederate statue readied for a battle that never materialized

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Big Dixie flags were waving. County employees had erected a barrier around the Confederate soldier statue at Main and Broad streets. Roads and parking areas were blocked off. Uniformed local officers and federal law enforcement patrolled.

    Police tape and barricades surround the Confederate statue in Brooksville.
  2. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman


    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  3. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'


    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  4. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light


    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  5. USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling


    TAMPA — As Florida's universities stare down a mental health epidemic, the University of South Florida has crafted a plan it hopes will reach all students, from the one in crisis to the one who doesn't know he could use some help.

    A student crosses the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where visits to the school's crisis center more than doubled last year, part of a spike in demand that has affected colleges across the country. The university is addressing the issue this year with $1.5 million for more "wellness coaches," counselors, online programs and staff training. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]