Friday, February 23, 2024
HomenortheastReport urges limited police pursuits in the US to reduce fatalities and...

Report urges limited police pursuits in the US to reduce fatalities and risk

Aiming to curb the hundreds of deaths caused by police chases in the U.S. each year, a new report calls for police not to start a pursuit unless a violent crime has been committed and the suspect poses an imminent threat.

The study released Tuesday by the Police Executive Research Forum, a national think tank on policing standards, follows a spike in fatalities from police chases during the pandemic and the criticism of several police departments for the increased use of pursuits, including in Houston and New York City.

The report produced by a committee of experts and policing executives says police chases should be rare, noting that the danger to suspects, officers and bystanders often outweighs the immediate need to take someone into custody.

“A lot of this has to do with the new thinking in policing today, which is about proportionality,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of PERF. “It’s about the sanctity of life and balancing the risk to everyone. Police officers die in pursuits. Suspects die in pursuits and even citizens can be injured or die.”

Wexler said there are no national standards for when police chases are allowed, and he hopes the report will guide departments on how to update or create well-defined policies. He said there are situations when police must pursue someone, and the report outlines ways to craft policies to allow for that as well as when to call pursuits off.

Other departments, including New York City, have reversed course from tightly controlled permission processes to broadening the range of suspected crimes for which chases are allowed. Meanwhile, New York City’s Commission to Combat Police Corruption said in a report released last month that officers involved in vehicle chases causing injuries or harm should be treated the same as those accused of using excessive force.

Alpert, who has studied vehicle pursuits since the early 80s, said the costs to life and property of vehicle pursuits easily outweigh the benefits of recovering cars or finding weapons. He pointed to Milwaukee, where police heavily restricted chases in 2009 after a series of high profile fatal and injury crashes. The changes immediately lowered deaths, injuries and other poor outcomes, but the city’s police commission loosened those restrictions over several years driving injuries and fatalities back up.

Alpert said he hopes the recommendations in the PERF pursuit report become the standard for setting policy, as several PERF reports on policing practices have in the past.

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