Three times in the past three months, suspects racing from San Francisco police have plowed cars into innocent people, killing a woman and sending several others to hospitals. Each time, officers apparently followed department policy. The San Francisco Chronicle says that in the aftermath of twisted metal and grief, people are asking when, why and for how long should police chase bad guys fleeing in cars, especially in a densely populated city like San Francisco? Police say chases are necessary, even if they can result in crashes, if society wants to keep dangerous felons off the street. Critics say authorities in many cases should hit the brake pedal as soon as lawbreakers hit the gas and start threading through traffic.
“Chases enhance the risk to the public in many cases,” said Candy Priano of Pursuit Safety, a national nonprofit dedicated to changing law enforcement policy on high-speed pursuits. “Chasing is not a deterrent to crime. It has never lessened crime.” Thirteen years ago, a teenager who took her mother's car without permission plowed into Priano's minivan while being chased by police in Chico, Ca. Her daughter Kristie, 15, was killed. In San Francisco, police regulations say not to engage in high-speed pursuits of criminals they deem nonviolent. The Police Department's policy on pursuing fleeing violators says that “when the risk appears to be unreasonable, or when specifically prohibited by this order, the supervisor shall immediately order the emergency response or pursuit terminated.”