St. Louis area police chiefs pursuing a way to insulate the public from fleeing criminals are planning a meeting with prosecutors next month, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Their agenda includes the possibility of more-uniform policies among the region’s many jurisdictions about when officers should give chase – and when they should back off. A Missouri lawmaker proposed tougher penalties for drivers who try to elude police. Rep. Jack Jackson will push for such drivers to be charged with felonies, which potentially means prison.
“Pursuits are probably one of the biggest problems for agencies,” said John Connolly, chief of police in Manchester and an advocate of restrictive pursuit policies. There is little uniformity among St. Louis-area policies, a fact that often leads to confusion between departments. Police in St. Louis County municipalities frequently pursue cars into St. Louis city, whose officers are not permitted to join them. Other differences abound. Questions linger about the pursuit of a van by Maplewood officers on Jan. 30. News helicopters recorded the chase, which cut across busy streets and rushed past school buses. Maplewood officers had apparently tried to stop the fleeing vehicle after a report of a gas theft. The FBI is investigating whether officers violated the suspect’s civil rights by beating and kicking him after he ran from the van.