Debate season amongst all of the mayoral candidates running in Tampa's March 1 election will heat up next month, and certainly questions about the Tampa Police Department will be part of those forums.
But citizens can learn where the candidates stand on some of the issues that concern members of the TPD right now, as the Tampa Police Benevolent Association has published the responses to questionnaires that it issued to all of the candidates as the PBA votes today on who they will endorse in the mayoral race.
Of all the questions on the form (which can be accessed by going to the PBA's website), the one we were curious to see responses to was to Tampa's car chase policy, which former Mayor Dick Greco reinstated back in May of 1995, after winning office two months earlier. That policy allowed officer to give chase even for non-violent property crimes that include burglary and auto theft. But it has become controversial at times, especially after there have been fatalities involved in chasing after stolen cars. The PBA writes in their background information before asking the question in the survey that policy has been scaled back somewhat, so that the police can only give chase after a pursued vehicle has committed or attempted to commit a forcible felony or any burglary - which still means however that it can still give chase for a non-violent episode.
The question asked by the PBA was: Do you think the current vehicle pursuit policy is too restrictive or not restrictive enough, and would you make any changes to it? Please explain.
Here are their responses:
Thomas Scott: "The current policy reflects a balance between public safety and proper enforcement strategies. Any change to the policy would create a need for officer re-training and could possibly cause a potential reduction in the trust and confidence of everyday citizens."
Marion Lewis: "Vehicle pursuits are a necessary evil, but must be restrictive for the safety of the public as well as the officers. As such, I believe the current policy is acceptable."
Bob Buckhorn: "I have always supported an aggressive pursuit policy and will continue to do so as Mayor.
In fact, I was the only Councilmember who voted against a settlement offer by the Greco Administration to an individual who was killed after hitting a bus while fleeing from TPD."
Rose Ferlita: "The current pursuit policy appears to be sufficient. However, I will discuss the policy further
with the Chief, the Legal Advisor and officers to determine its effectiveness and legality."
Dick Greco: " I have always supported an effective pursuit policy. Any revisions of the policy must be
undertaken by the PBA, the TPD, and the Mayors office to reach a consensus."
Ed Turanchik: " I view chase policy as a function of risk vs. benefit. I would trust the professional judgment
of our law enforcement professionals and risk managers to balance the two. As a general
proposition, I view a strong chase policy as an important deterrent to crime."
The other candidate in the race, businessman Arthur Richardson, did not complete the survey, according to the Tampa PBA.
Earlier this year in St. Petersburg, Mayor Bill Foster liberalized that police department's car chase policy somewhat, allowing officers to chase anyone who commits a "forcible felony, " which added burglary to its list of crimes that can spark a high-speed chase.