[What you are about to read arguably ventures into the realm of opinion.]
Every time we publish footage of a high speed chase, the comments are full of spirited debate. Predictable spirited debate. The following example was created from a mashup of actual conversations:
A: Of course, the capital felony of shoplifting. Punishable by 126 MPH deadly PIT maneuver. The pursuit created too much danger for everyone. It should have been called off.
B: It’s a crime and the thief was driving at speeds that would kill! Plus they had a gun. So do you want to recant your ignorant statement?
A: If you watch the video, they clearly say they don’t think the person has a gun. The police chasing them is the reason they continue to drive at high speeds. If police back off the chase that person will slow down to blend in with regular traffic and not put the public at risk. Is shoplifting that serious of a crime that it requires such a large police response, and deadly force? Also, guns are not illegal.
B: WTF? Are you defending a criminal? That’s the real problem today. Not the police. It’s people defending the criminals and then complaining constantly when the police didn’t arrive to help them against criminals! Pick a side, DOLT!
A: I am not defending the shoplifter. The police responded to a shoplifting incident like they do to an armed robbery. My point is this could have been handled better, and more safely. CHP’s top speed for PIT is 35 mph, the maximum speed recommended by the agency that developed the technique. I’m saying that in this situation the risk wasn’t worth it. Even the risk to the officer is too high. It’s crazy. Pursuits are dangerous enough without intentional crashes.
B: So you just want to let criminals go? How fast do you have to speed before you don’t get a ticket anymore? That’s ridiculous. It would lead to chaos.
That conversation has happened countless times in comments on this channel. In fact, it consists almost entirely of actual quotes. Rather than directly weigh in, I want to provide you with more information.
First, a recent comment caught my attention. The commenter, referencing California Highway Patrol pursuits, wrote “Just wait until one of those pursuits kills an uninvolved party.”
It caught my attention because California pursuit stats are readily available. I am also familiar with them, and there is no “waiting” necessary. In 2019, of nearly 9,000 California pursuits, more than 2,000 ended in a collision, injuring more than 1,200 and killing 35. Fourteen of the 35 dead were uninvolved third parties. Of the injuries, 370 were uninvolved and 60 were officers. The most common originating violation was speeding.
I also want to share with you the Arkansas State Police pursuit policy, and to contrast it with that of Nevada Highway Patrol. The most striking difference is in their approach to safety.
Although both start with references to safety, ASP’s safety note is one sentence long, quoting the state law that requires officers to drive with “due regard for the safety of all persons.” The policy then dictates the number of units that can be pursuing at one time — unless an exception is made.
Overall, ASP’s policy provides little actual guidance and almost no explicit direction on when pursuits should or should not be initiated or terminated. Under some circumstances, ASP policy allows troopers to PIT motorcycles. It doesn’t allow troopers to drive on the wrong side of the road during a pursuit unless exigent circumstances exist and supervisor approval is obtained in advance.
NHP’s policy begins: “Vehicle pursuits expose innocent citizens, law enforcement officers and fleeing violators to the risk of serious injury or death. The primary purpose of this policy is to provide officers with guidance in balancing the safety of the public and themselves against law enforcement’s duty to apprehend violators of the law. Another purpose of this policy is to minimize the potential for pursuit related collisions. Vehicular pursuits require officers to exhibit a high degree of common sense and sound judgment. Officers must not forget that the immediate apprehension of a suspect is generally not more important than the safety of the public and pursuing officers. . . An individual’s unreasonable desire to apprehend a fleeing suspect at all costs has no place in professional law enforcement.”
NHP’s policy provides explicit guidance to officers about pursuit initiation and termination, emphasizing safety throughout. It also, of course, covers the mechanics of pursuits.
I encourage you to read them both.
NHP’s pursuit policy: https://rwp.yt/nhp
ASP’s pursuit policy: https://rwp.yt/asp
The CA data source: https://rwp.yt/cadata
Want to help make Real World Police happen and get rewarded for it? Become a Sergeant on Patreon today!
No sweat! There are more than 700 free videos to enjoy ✌️