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Police Pursuits: How do Officers Know When to Chase?

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Photo by karthikkito via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr


Photo by karthikkito via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
Not everyone loves a car chase. In fact, many police departments around the nation, including here in Southern California, where our expansive freeway system is the frequent scene of police pursuits, are making revisions to their guidelines for when and how to conduct vehicle pursuits of suspects, reports the Star-News.

Oftentimes, however, the ultimate decision to engage in a chase in pursuit of a suspect comes from the officers themselves. "Officers use their judgment and can initiate pursuits for any infraction." Such is the case in area departments like Whittier, Baldwin Park, Pasadena, and West Covina, though in the latter department, officers must "consider a checklist of 14 or 15 factors" before initiating pursuit.

Similarly, the LAPD's "current policy calls for officers to determine the seriousness of the crime and its relationship to community safety before pursuing a suspect." They revised their policy on car chases following 2002's numerous high-profile pursuits. "Police pursuits in the city dropped 60 percent over a three-month period immediately following the policy changes, according to city documents."

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It's a crucial decision, given the danger of vehicle pursuits: "[A]pproximately 40 percent of all pursuits result in a crash, 20 percent result in an injury and 1 percent result in a death," according to Geoffrey Alpert, professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina.

Previously: Car Chases: Breaking News or Breaking Entertainment?