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Cost of Mayor Bill Foster’s new high-speed pursuit? $140,000 and counting as city purchases 380 ‘stop sticks’

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Before I write anything else, let me be clear that I think it was just ridiculous for Mayor Bill Foster to allow the police to engage in high-speed pursuits.  As City Council Chair Leslie Curran got Police Chief Chuck Harmon to admit, there is not one shred of evidence that the police can point to that shows allowing high-speed pursuits does anything but create mayhem.

When asked by Curran what data he had showing that the policy change would reduce crime, Foster didn’t refer to any numbers.

Curran directed her question to police Chief Chuck Harmon.

“What data showed crime would go down?” she asked Harmon.

Criminals may be less prone to steal a car if they know that this new policy is out there, he said, but that’s hard to measure.

“Do I have a way to tell?” Harmon said. “Not specifically.”

Despite there being only anecdotal evidence to support Foster and Harmon’s decision, the Mayor and the Police Chief moved forward with their plan to allow high-speed pursuits. As St. Petersburg Sgt. Karl Lounge, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police said, “it’s game on now” when Foster unveiled his policy in February.

Well, the cost of this game now has a price. $140,000.  That was the cost to the city to purchase 380 (!) stop sticks to be used during police pursuits.

First of all, what the hell is the City Hall doing spending $140,000 on anything not absolutely essential to the core function of city government?  I wonder how many of the pools Mayor Foster wants to close would be able to stay open if $140,000 could be spent on recreation instead of chasing teenagers joyriding in stolen Honda Civics?

And did the City really need 380 of these “stop sticks”?  According to Foster and Harmon, the new pursuit policy “will cause only about 10 additional chases a year.”

If there will be only 10 additional chases a year, why does the city need 380 stop sticks?  Let’s assume, a four dozen or so police cruisers will be equipped with these “stop sticks.”  This is a pretty generous estimate, since it’s rare for 48 police cruisers to be on the road at one time.  But let’s just say that at any given moment, there are 48 police cruisers equipped with “stop sticks.”

Now, let’s say there is a really crazy high-speed pursuit and all 48 police cruisers engage in the pursuit.  That doesn’t really matter because even if all 48 police cruisers deploy their “stop sticks” to deflate the tires of the joyriding teenage in his Honda Civic, only one “stop stick” can do the job. The police can’t keep deflating the tires again and again.

So, one “stop stick” works, the bad guys are caught and the other 47 police cruisers wind up their “stop sticks” for another day.  That’s assuming that the “stop stick” that was used cannot be recycled.  The company who produces the “stop stick” says they should not be re-used, although I don’t know what can be done to a link of metal spikes that would damage them so much as to make them unusable.  It’s 80 feet of metal spikes, a tire is only a foot wide.  Four tires (if the car rolls over the “stop stick” at an angle is four feet.  Take out those four feet of used chain and the police would be left with 76 feet of metal spikes, which I think is more than enough to do the job.

But I digress…

Let’s assume, the police do not recycle the one “stop stick” used to stop the bad guys.  That still leaves the city with 379 “stop sticks” on hand.  Just for the sake of argument, I’ll say the bad guys had really thick tires and it took two “stop sticks” to slow the bastards down.  In fact, on the first year’s worth of high-speed pursuits, the city should plan on using two “stop sticks,” none of which can be recycled, for every high speed pursuit.

That’s 20 “stop sticks” the police will go through based on Mayor Foster and Chief Harmon’s projections. That means, the City of St. Petersburg just purchased at least 19 frekin’ years worth of “stop strips” in what is described as the worst budget year in the city’s history.  All to green-light a pursuit policy that leads in a police car crashing one out of every three incidents.

Again, just wonderig how many pools or libraries or police officers or arts councils could be funded with $140,000.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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