Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gaultieri latest Bay Area official to change controversial car-chase policy

Posted by Mitch Perry on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gaultieri
  • Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gaultieri
A couple of months after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman delivered on his campaign promise to change that police department's car chase pursuit policy, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri followed suit on Monday, though he said that his decision had nothing to do with what St. Pete has recently decided.

At a news conference this afternoon, Gualtieri said that a sworn sheriff deputy may engage in a vehicle pursuit only when it's necessary to apprehend a person because he or she committed a crime and "by their criminal conduct the suspect constitutes an imminent and/ or continuous threat to the safety of any person if not apprehended."

Another reason to engage in pursuit of a motorist he said would be "if he or she by their extremely dangerous driving poses an imminent threat of great bodily harm to any person if not immediately stopped and apprehended."
Pinellas County deputies violated the previous car chase policy three times back in the spring and summer of 2012, with some members of the Strategic Enforcement Section receiving suspensions, as reported by Mike Deeson at WTSP-Channel 10.

Sheriff Gualtieri said the revision of the pursuit policy began approximately a year ago, and took into consideration input from members across the agency, in order to "develop a solid and workable policy". Since the changes began to be instituted, Gualtieri cited a 54% drop in pursuits between 2012 and 2013; and "considerable modification to the behavior for engagement in a pursuit."

In January Rick Kriseman (who is still searching for a new police chief) announced a new car chase policy for St. Pete Police officers, authorizing them to pursue vehicles only when the driver or occupants have been involved in a violent felony, vs. a "forcible felony."

"I think it’s important with your techniques to weigh the benefit vs. detriment," Kriseman told CL back in January.

Tampa's car chase policy allows officer to give chase even for non-violent property crimes that include burglary and auto theft. That's definitely been controversial, but there has been no indication that Mayor Bob Buckhorn or Police Chief Jane Castor are in any mood to change it. 

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