A year ago, Orlando, Fl., made its police pursuit policy more stringent by telling officers to stop, turn around, and drive away to defuse a chase when a fleeing vehicle does not stop, reports the Indianapolis Star. Some officers were outraged, predicting a crime wave because they weren’t allowed to chase except for the most serious crimes. Yet crime hasn’t surged. Drivers continue to pull over when they see a police officer’s pulsating lights behind them, the Star says in the second of two articles on problems with police chases.
Orlando is one of several places across the nation that have scrutinized their pursuit policies and cut back on chases. About 350 people nationwide are killed in chases each year, and about 110 of them are bystanders. Los Angeles; San Antonio; Detroit; Milwaukee; Boston; San Jose, Ca.; Jacksonville, Fl.; Columbus, Ohio; Austin, Tx.; and Kansas City, Mo., have banned police pursuits for traffic infractions. Other cities, including Baltimore and Memphis, Tenn., permit chases only for violent felonies. An Indianapolis Star analysis of 947 chases in 2003 and 2004 by three departments found that about three-quarters of all chases were prompted by traffic violations or “suspicious” vehicles or occupants. Chases have reached speeds of 100 mph on Indianapolis city streets and more than 170 mph on Indiana’s interstate highways.