The Art of the Chase: Vehicle Pursuits
Sergeant George M. Godoy
Some jurisdictions have very restrictive pursuit policies. For example, the Denver Police Department enacted a policy restricting vehicle pursuits and officers are not authorized to pursue vehicles that:
- are stolen or involved in non-violent crimes
- are simply fleeing
- are in violation of traffic laws
- are involved in hit and run accidents not involving death or serious injury
Due to the increase in lawsuits, many municipalities have enacted heavy restrictions on pursuits. However, a recent poll by the US Justice Department indicates that officer initiated vehicle pursuits are generally supported by the public as a quality crime fighting tool. 70% of those polled said pursuits were a necessary risk in the war on crime. Over half of those polled thought the decision to pursue should made by the officer and not restricted by department policy. Many experienced cops believe that over-restricting their ability to conduct vehicle pursuits, severely handcuffs their ability to do effective police work. They feel such restrictions give the bad guys another weapon against law enforcement.
Definition of Vehicle Pursuit – An active attempt by one or more police officers to apprehend a suspect who is operating a motor vehicle and trying to avoid capture.
Suspect tactics may include driving at high-speeds and evasive tactics, such as driving off the roadway, making sudden or unexpected movements or maintaining a legal speed, but failing to yield to the officer’s signal to stop. Routine traffic stops or other instances where officers activate emergency lights and siren and the operator stops within a reasonably short distance are not a vehicle pursuit.
When answering common-sense questions about high-speed pursuits, consider this:
No assignment is of such importance and no task need be expedited with such speed, that the risk to public safety become secondary. No task undertaken in the official capacity of a police officer is of such importance to justify the reckless disregard of the officer’s safety, or the safety of others.
Before initiating a vehicle pursuit, an officer should determine if:
- The suspect presents a clear and immediate threat to the safety of others
- The suspect has committed or is attempting to commit a serious crime
- The necessity of immediate apprehension outweighs the level of danger created by pursuit
All emergency vehicle operations should be conducted in strict accordance with existing statutes. When engaged in any vehicle pursuit, an officer will simultaneously use the police vehicle emergency lights and siren.
This article was written by Sgt. George M. Godoy of PoliceExam911 and was republished with permission. Sgt. Godoy offers a Police Training Video Course that guarantees improved scores and results for police applicants. RealPolice endorses the PoliceExam911 training method and highly recommends it for police applicants or students serious about getting into law enforcement.