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High-Speed Chases - In Pursuit of a Balanced Policy (From Police Management Today, P 99-106, 1985, James J Fyfe, ed. - See NCJ-97876)

NCJ Number
E Beckman
Date Published
8 pages
This article critically examines existing research on accidents caused by high-speed police chases and discusses features of an effective departmental pursuit policy.
Although citizens, police administrators, city managers, and legal advisers have become concerned about high-speed police chases, there is little research available and existing research is of questionable quality. A 1970 Department of Transportation study was based on a 1-month field study of four police agencies, while another project by the Physicians for Automotive Safety failed to specify its sample size and response rate. Even in the absence of good research, the police community acknowledges that pursuits are synomous with hazard. A reasonable position is that not even the attempt to capture a serious offender is worth the death of an innocent bystander. Each State legislature has the duty to address the life and death issue of pursuits. In the absence of such laws, a police chief must establish detailed and carefully formulated policy. Assuming that law and policy will allow some type of pursuit, training is a necessity. Control through supervision and discipline must follow. Excellent pursuit policies have been developed by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (California), the Anaheim Police Department (California), and the Southfield Police Department (Michigan). Good policies are carefully written, cover many associated issues, urge consideration of the offense balanced against the danger of the pursuit, and provide guidelines for discontinuance of the pursuit. Specific issues considered include when to initiate pursuit, number of units permitted, helicopter assistance, driving tactics, communications, capture, firearms use, blocking and roadblocks, absolute speed limits, and reporting and postpursuit analysis. It would be helpful to future policy formulation if police administrators maintained statistical records on all their pursuits. The article includes 23 footnotes.