Phoenix police are chasing far fewer fleeing drivers under a new policy that forbids the majority of pursuits on city roadways, the Arizona Republic reports. The new pursuit policy, which started March 6, allows officers to chase only people wanted for violent felony crimes and bars chases for traffic violations, stolen vehicles, misdemeanors, and non-violent felonies. The policy mirrors a nationwide trend to restrict pursuits to protect the public from unintended car crashes and deaths.
In the three months after Phoenix’s policy took effect, the number of pursuits fell 75 percent from the same period last year. Injuries and collisions have been reduced. “This is just as dangerous as firing a weapon,” said police commander Blake McClelland. “We limit officers’ use of weapons. We want to restrict this for the serious felons that would be more of a harm to let go than the pursuit would be.” Aircraft now are involved in about 57 percent of police pursuits. In 2002, before police started looking at their pursuit policy, officers chased 423 fleeing drivers. By 2005, that number fell to 67. This year, there have been only 22 car chases.