Nothing makes a heartbeat faster than the sounds of sirens and flashing lights from a police car.
Our senses tell us that an emergency is occurring or pursuit is underway. At times, the increased level of anxiety comes with a racing heart beat because of the uncertainty.
A fight or flight instinct kicks in as drivers either begin to slow down or quickly look for ways to respond to the warning of the police vehicle approaching their area.
In a state, such as California, where the population is so dense and the space is limited, police chases put the public at risk causing unnecessary injuries or even worse - mortality.
Is it safe to Pursue or Not Pursue?
Police chases occur when an officer(s) of the law is in pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law. Police chases are not always required but sometimes are necessary. In the event that a police chase occurs, it can cause a dangerous environment for motorists on the road as well as innocent bystanders.
Before pursuing a violator, a police officer should consider the factors of the necessity of the pursuit by vehicle, the severity of the crime, the density of the population and the road conditions. According to California Law Enforcement Vehicle Pursuit Guidelines, a balance test is conducted to determine the magnitude of risk before a pursuit is initiated as stated in CVC 17004.7.
Officers Determination of Chase Checklist
The public’s safety has the highest priority in chases. The following factors are critical in proceeding in a pursuit:
- How many suspects are in the fleeing vehicle?
- What is the nature of the suspected offense or violation?
- What are advantages and disadvantages of the area or location for pursuit?
- How do traffic conditions factor in the overall pursuit?
- Will the area of location be able to utilize air support?
- What is the number of officers that can assist with the pursuit?
- How many vehicles are involved in the pursuit?
- Which units authorized to assist in the pursuit are logistically better in the pursuit? E.g. (motorcycles, canine, marked/unmarked cars, etc.)
- What limitations does the units confined have?
- What tactics or techniques permissible for units approved to parallel a pursuit or trail? E.g. (strategic traffic control in advance of the pursuit)
- What are the traffic conditions?
- Are there other agencies and jurisdictions that can assist?
Is it worth the risk?
The Los Angeles Police Department has reported a dramatic increase in police chases since last year and the public is concerned with the alarming numbers recorded in Southern California. There have been 632 pursuits so far in 2017. That’s 113 more than those recorded in 2016. Local authorities are searching for ways to be proactive and preventative in keeping bystanders and motorists safe from these dangerous encounters. The consequences of these police chases are that they destroy family’s lives and rack up monetary damages.
To avoid these sometimes deadly results of police chases, the officer(s) starts with deciding whether to pursue for a violation or a felony. The Rules may vary from department to department within that state but police chases are alarmingly one of the most dangerous roles in police operations. A nonthreatening police chase starts but can very quickly end with about 76% of police pursuits being over in five minutes.
The USA Today states nationwide that one person a day is killed in a police chase from 1979 through 2013. In California from 2002 through 2014, 63,500 police chases were recorded. Of the police chases reported, more than 89% were for minor vehicle code violations such as reckless driving, speeding, vehicle theft, an expired registration or a missing license plate.
Generally, police pursuit rules should be uniform and restrictive across the board. The technological developments and training are going to be influential in providing officers with the resources needed to lower police chase mortality. Also continuing education on the art of pursuit will provide police officers with real life, hands on, experience of ever changing situations which would include tactical driving as well as proper judgment on pursuits.
The end results should be a greater emphasis of protecting the public as well as the mission of serving the needs and abiding the law.