When an Illinois driver who was pulled over for having tinted windows hit the gas and fled, a state trooper had no choice but to let them speed away under a state police policy that allows officers to chase drivers only when they believe someone is in danger or when a violent crime has occurred, says the Associated Press. After fleeing, two men inside the car allegedly went on a crime spree in Illinois corn country, fatally shooting a sheriff’s deputy and taking hostages at a small-town bank. They were arrested hours later.
Some officers question whether the suspects could have been stopped earlier if the pursuit policy were less restrictive. Indiana allows troopers to chase drivers who flee traffic stops, even if officers know nothing about them. After some law enforcement agencies tightened pursuit policies, chase-related deaths fell to about 300 a year in the late 1990s from 800. The Illinois policy is more restrictive than many others, but some agencies prohibit chases, said Tom Dempsey of the University of Illinois’ Police Training Institute. Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminal justice professor who consults with police on pursuit policies, said Illinois authorities were right to let the car go after the initial traffic stop. “My hat’s off to them. They did what was right,” he said. “You can’t put people’s lives at risk on a hunch.”