Four suspects and one police officer have been killed during foot chases involving DeKalb County, Ga., police since 2001, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. While foot pursuits by police are common and depicted heroically on TV reality shows like “Cops,” some experts argue they should be strictly limited. “An officer who is in a foot pursuit often has a high level of drive and adrenaline,” said Merrick Bobb, a special counsel who monitors the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Officers in the heat of a chase without backup may make poor tactical decisions, putting themselves at risk of ambush or solo hand-to-hand combat after an exhausting pursuit, said Bobb, who successfully pushed for a ban on almost all foot pursuits by solo Los Angeles deputies. The rules emphasize using multiple deputies to contain a fleeing suspect, with the help of a helicopter if necessary.
In DeKalb, police shootings are under scrutiny after 12 suspects were killed last year – more than any other department in the Atlanta area. Foot pursuits are rarely studied, and most police departments don’t keep statistics on them. Between 2001 and last year, 33 suspects were shot to death by DeKalb police. Four of the shootings – or 12 percent – involved foot pursuits. The DeKalb policy on such pursuits does not conform to the limits recommended in a model policy drafted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which resembles the Los Angeles rules in severely limiting solo pursuits. Statistically speaking, foot pursuits don’t seem particularly dangerous, said criminologist Robert Kaminski of the University of South Carolina, who surveyed foot chases in Richland County, S.C. He estimated the average Richland deputy conducted more than four foot pursuits per year and that no more than one in 50,000 foot pursuits in that department ended in an officer’s death.