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St. Pete police investigating pursuit allegation

ST. PETERSBURG — Two weeks after the new mayor directed the Police Department to change its pursuit policy, authorities are investigating an allegation of an unauthorized chase.

Police officials on Friday confirmed that the agency's internal affairs division has begun an inquiry into an incident that happened early Wednesday.

Officials did not release any other information about the incident — including if a chase actually occurred, where it took place in the city, what may have prompted it or who was involved — because of the internal inquiry.

Mayor Rick Kriseman, who tightened the pursuit policy after taking office this month, was notified of the investigation Friday, communications director Ben Kirby told the Tampa Bay Times.

Kriseman also asked for more information from Interim Police Chief Dave DeKay, who was out of the office Friday.

"The mayor wants to understand all the details of the incident before saying anything else about it," Kirby said.

Pursuits have been a frequent and controversial issue in the city. Residents have complained they are unsafe and not necessary. Police have maintained they only chase cars when they must.

Kriseman vowed on the campaign trail to reinstitute limits on the policy, which had been loosened under former mayor Bill Foster to allow officers to pursue suspects of forcible felonies, which would include burglaries.

A week after taking office, Kriseman and DeKay announced the policy would once again only allow chases for those suspected of violent felonies.

Department data showed many of the pursuits from the past few years would have met the standards of the violent-only policy.

The agency has faced questions about unauthorized pursuits before.

Last summer, a resident complained after seeing a police cruiser chasing a car through the Childs Park neighborhood without lights or sirens.

An internal investigation report, released in November, concluded the officers involved had not conducted an unauthorized pursuit but that they had broke other rules, including operating without supervision and making improper comments on the radio. Supervisors suspended three officers; a fourth resigned.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com, (727) 893-8643 or @cornandpotatoes on Twitter.

St. Pete police investigating pursuit allegation 01/24/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 24, 2014 9:03pm]
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