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ASK THE CANDIDATES

The Times is asking mayoral candidates questions before the March 25 election.

QUESTION: The Police Department has a very strict policy on car chases, which are prohibited unless a suspect has committed a violent felony and unless a supervisor gives approval. A similar policy was reversed by a new mayoral administration in Tampa. Would you leave the St. Petersburg policy in place?

MAYOR DAVID FISCHER: The city's current policy is appropriate and should be kept in place. Given that we are in the most densely populated county in Florida, high-speed chases are likely to endanger innocent members of the public and should be kept to an absolute minimum. Obviously, however, there will be some situations where a pursuit of this nature is necessary.

BILL KLEIN: We need to make St. Petersburg inhospitable to criminals. Car chases should be avoided when possible. If they are required, they should be done with intelligence and with a standard operating procedure to maximize a successful pursuit and minimize risk to the public. My objective is to have the most professional police force in the country. We must empower our officers to make proper tactical decisions and show them our confidence that they will make the right decisions. This is why we need changes in the training, scheduling, supervision, tactical planning, equipment and manpower levels of our police department.

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