Four months after a high-speed pursuit in Somerville, Ma., ended with a suspect crashing into a taxi and killing two people, Massachusetts state police officials overhauled the agency’s chase policy, placing greater emphasis on assessing the potential risk to the public, reports the Boston Globe. The change to a 2001 policy went into effect Sept. 7. Had the new guidelines been in place at the time, the ultimately fatal Somerville pursuit probably would have been called off earlier.
Under the pursuit guidelines, troopers are instructed: “A motor vehicle pursuit is justified when the necessity of the apprehension of a suspect outweighs the risk created by the pursuit.” Troopers must check in frequently with supervisors at all points during a chase. A chase involving a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony must be terminated when the suspect enters a densely populated area or heavily congested roadway. The pursuing officer must provide assistance to any civilian vehicle involved in a crash, with assistance to injured people taking precedence over continuing the pursuit. “As a public safety agency, you weigh public safety against pursuing a suspect,” said Terrel Harris of the Executive Office of Public Safety. “Public safety should win out every time.”