Law and order issues are shaping St. Petersburg Mayor's race

Foster and Kriseman clash on philosophy

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - In his re-election effort, Mayor Bill Foster enjoys the support of his police officer's union. 

Shortly after being sworn in in 2009, Foster relaxed the police chase policy that some officers felt was too restrictive. 

But it was one of several changes that may cost him votes in the midtown and South St. Pete neighborhoods.

"When you have people just rolling through in police cars or in unmarked cars speeding through neighborhoods,  this kind of show of strength mentality doesn't work. People resent that" said St. Petersburg's NAACP President Emmanuel Sykes.

Reverend Sykes also believes Foster made a mistake in firing former Chief Goliath Davis, considered a key liason to the black community. Foster has since pledged to create a new position to fill that role, but he's unapologetic about an aggressive style of policing that cracks down on minor offenses  to suppress more serious crime.

"We will sweat the small stuff in spite of the cry that doesn't want us to enforce the nitpicky stuff. I think you really have to use that broken window theory in policing and that's what we're going to keep doing" said Foster.

Challenger Rick Kriseman claims he has a philosophical difference with Bill Foster on policing.

We've gotten away from a traditional community policing philosophy which emphasizes the relationship between citizens and businesses and the police department. So I want to get back to that.

With current Chief Chuck Harmon set to retire this year, the new mayor will have to hire his replacement. Foster says he'll take lots of input before deciding and doesn't believe the department needs to improve rapport with the community.

"I don't see that there's a rapport problem even with Harmon, but any time you bring in a new leader whether from the outside or inside, they have to establish trust" said Foster.

Kriseman echoed the need for the new police chief to establish trust.

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