Monday, May 21, 2018
Public safety

St. Petersburg police chief defends recent high-speed chases

ST. PETERSBURG — After a recent pair of high-speed chases resulted in injuries to bystanders, police Chief Chuck Harmon defended his officers at a City Council meeting Thursday.

Harmon assured council members that officers are not chasing vehicles daily, only when criminals commit forcible felonies such as burglaries, kidnappings and other violent crimes.

"I have been in law enforcement for over 30 years," he said. "This has always been a tough choice for us."

After the recent crashes — which were two weeks apart — police critics say they'd be more comfortable if officers backed off from chases altogether. The first chase, while mostly on St. Petersburg streets, involved the Gulfport Police Department.

This year, St. Petersburg police have recorded 16 chases. Of those, 11 were ruled justified. Five are pending review, Harmon said.

Two years ago, a newly elected Mayor Bill Foster prodded the department to loosen its restrictive chase policy as a way to crack down on crime. The year that change went into effect, 2010, there were 16 police pursuits in the city, according to department data.

A year later, that number more than doubled to 34.

After the most recent chases, council members asked Harmon for the update he gave Thursday.

Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran said Harmon hadn't wanted to change the policy in 2010, saying: "You really weren't receptive. The mayor changed it."

Council member Jeff Danner asked Harmon if he wanted the policy change to remain in place.

"I think the policy is fine," Harmon responded.

Foster said he wanted the policy changed in 2010 so city guidelines matched others in Tampa Bay and across Florida. The power to change the policy rests with Harmon, the mayor told the council.

"I never tell him how to do his job," Foster said.

Chases represent a small part of the 16,000 vehicles stopped every year in St. Petersburg, Harmon said, noting that "pursuits are an issue across the country."

Council member Wengay Newton pressed Harmon about whether chases were occurring that weren't reported by officers. He asked about an alleged incident where a resident jumped out of the way to avoid being struck by a police car in a chase.

Harmon disagreed with Newton, saying: "That's not what I am being told. It's not accurate."

Council member Steve Kornell took issue with residents blaming police for chasing suspects.

"Crime is the problem," he said. "Blaming our police … is just so inaccurate."

Comments
Traffic lights out at Pinellas Park intersection; drivers should avoid area

Traffic lights out at Pinellas Park intersection; drivers should avoid area

PINELLAS PARK — Traffic lights have lost power at the intersection of 66th Street N and Park Boulevard, police said.About 5:45 p.m., Pinellas Park Police announced the outage. Duke Energy is working to restore power, according to the agency. Drivers ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

SANTA FE, Texas — A 17-year-old student looking forward to celebrating his family's new swimming pool and a substitute teacher whose home frequently hosted family gatherings were among the 10 people killed in a mass shooting at a Texas high sch...
Published: 05/20/18
Burglary suspect jumps into Hillsborough canal to escape deputies, officials say

Burglary suspect jumps into Hillsborough canal to escape deputies, officials say

TAMPA — After a botched burglary, a fleeing suspect jumped into a canal to escape deputies Saturday afternoon, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The person has not yet been identified. The suspect tried to break into a business on...
Published: 05/19/18
Cuba: 110 died in plane crash, 3 survivors ‘critical’

Cuba: 110 died in plane crash, 3 survivors ‘critical’

HAVANA — The only three survivors of Cuba’s worst aviation disaster in three decades were clinging to life Saturday, a day after their passenger jet crashed in a fireball in Havana’s rural outskirts with 113 people on board. In the first official dea...
Published: 05/19/18
He lured young men looking for weed. Their bodies turned up in a pig roaster.

He lured young men looking for weed. Their bodies turned up in a pig roaster.

Cosmo DiNardo declared "I am a savage no explanation needed" on social media seven months before police say he lured four young men to his family’s farm, shot them to death, ran one of them over with a backhoe and dumped three of their bodies in a pi...
Published: 05/19/18
Off-duty Largo firefighter arrested on DUI charge

Off-duty Largo firefighter arrested on DUI charge

DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies arrested an off-duty Largo firefighter found asleep at the wheel shortly after 4 a.m. Saturday.Patrol deputies saw a 2013 Dodge Dart, facing west and stopped in the intersection of Main Street and Bass Bou...
Published: 05/19/18
After Texas school shooting, Tampa Bay officials will step up security

After Texas school shooting, Tampa Bay officials will step up security

Hours after Friday’s deadly school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, bay area law enforcement officials pledged to beef up school security for the last remaining days of the school year.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister held a news conference late Frid...
Published: 05/18/18
Largo police seek person of interest linked to missing man

Largo police seek person of interest linked to missing man

LARGO — Police are searching for a person of interest in the January disappearance of a 24-year-old man.The missing man is Timothy Patrick Cullen, 24, who Largo police said was last seen Jan. 22 at his home in the 500 block of Seventh Ave NE. His veh...
Published: 05/18/18
Pasco man accused of abusing 3-month-old infant

Pasco man accused of abusing 3-month-old infant

BAYONET POINT — A 26-year-old man was arrested Thursday on a charge of aggravated child abuse and accused of fracturing an infant’s skull, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Brandon Scott Madrishin told deputies that a 3-month-old infant ...
Published: 05/18/18
20 years later, Hank Earl Carr’s victims are still loved and remembered

20 years later, Hank Earl Carr’s victims are still loved and remembered

When her school bus pulled up to her house that day, Ashley Bell spotted her mom’s car in the driveway and wondered why it was there. A 14-year-old latchkey kid, Bell usually got home before her mother Carolyn arrived from her job as a nurse at St. J...
Published: 05/18/18