POLICE PURSUITS

Is the reward worth the cost?

Background Information

Police officers are charged with many duties, including maintaining a safe and orderly community.  The demands of the job require officers to make difficult decisions that may end up being reviewed by superior officers, challenged in court, and scrutinized by the public.  Use of force incidents - including high-speed vehicle pursuits - are often in the news because of the competing interests of these encounters.  When an officer chooses to pursue a suspected criminal, he must weigh the reward (catching someone who has violated the law) with the risk (property damage, personal injury or death to the violator, officers, or innocent civilians).  Although vehicle pursuits are a dangerous part of police work, we should not abandon them entirely. 

PURSUIT POLICIES

Types of pursuit policies

Most (if not all) police departments have written policies that regulate when an officer may initiate a vehicle pursuit.  These policies require officers to consider the seriousness of the offense that was committed, road and traffic conditions, presence of pedestrians and other vehicles, time of day, weather, driving ability of the officer, and identity of the suspect.In general, pursuit policies fall into one of three categories:1.  Full pursuit policy.  This means that an officer may pursue for any offense.2.  Restricted pursuit policy.  This means that an officer can pursue for certain offenses (perhaps a felony or a violent misdemeanor committed in the officer's presence).3.  No pursuit policy.  This means that officers will not initiate vehicle pursuits.

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF POLICE PURSUITS

Those who support police initiating and conducting high speed pursuits believe that it is a necessary tactic for controlling crime and apprehending violators.  They believe that if the criminals know the police won't chase them, the police are working at an extreme disadvantage.  Every time an officer tries to stop someone, their logic goes, the person - if he has committed a crime - will simply run away.  This situation leads to an increased disregard for the law by those who commit crimes, and it creates a lack of faith in the police by the law-abiding members of the community.