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The Art of the Chase: Vehicle Pursuits

The Art of the Chase: Vehicle Pursuits

Sergeant George M. Godoy

A vehicle pursuit study, covering 800 municipal and county agencies, indicated that two factors were likely to determine support for a vehicle pursuit:

1. The severity of the offense committed by the suspect

2. The risk to the public (traffic, road, and weather conditions)

When an officer initiates a vehicle pursuit, dispatch should be immediately notified of:

  • Unit Identification
  • Location, Direction of Travel, Indication of Speed
  • Reason for the Pursuit
  • Suspect Vehicle Description and Plate Number – if known
  • Number of Occupants and Description – if known

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It is important for the officer in pursuit to ensure the dispatcher and backup officers hear and understand radio transmissions. Roll up windows and give regular location updates.

When a pursuit involves excessive emergency speed and emergency driving tactics, the pursuing officer must consider:

  • The severity and nature of the violation
  • The likelihood of apprehending the suspect
  • The public safety hazards created by a high-speed pursuit
  • The traffic encountered during the pursuit – volume, speed, direction
  • The pursuit environment: residential, commercial, school zone, open highway
  • The population density
  • The familiarity with the roads being traveled
  • The weather and road conditions
  • The driving skill of the officer and condition of the police vehicle being driven

Every police officer must be able to determine when a vehicle pursuit should not be initiated and when to break off a pursuit.

Some common sense guidelines include:

Pursuit would create a clear and unreasonable danger to the officer, the pursued vehicle or other users of the highway. The degree of danger and risk to public safety should outweigh the need for immediate apprehension. The suspect has been identified and apprehension can be accomplished later without the danger of pursuit.

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