Why Police Are Engaging in Fewer High-Speed Chases

Fleeing from the police is an extraordinarily dangerous decision. Statewide, between 1995 and 2015, there were 100 deaths tied to high-speed police chases. Among those killed, one-fifth were pedestrians or other drivers. The majority — 78 — were people in the fleeing vehicles. In order to reduce these fatalities, some police agencies have put new rules in place for high-speed police chases. The result has been a sharp decline in the rate of injury and death among officers, suspects, and innocent civilians.

Rochester Police Department is one of several law enforcement agencies to implement new policies that only allow vehicle chases for known or suspected violent felons. Officials with the Rochester PD told USA Today that limiting officers’ authority to initiate a chase has played a critical role in reducing crashes related to high speed chases.

The department has an 18-page policy on pursuits that describes what tactics can be employed and the criteria under which a chase is allowed. Officers must also notify supervisors immediately when a chase begins, and officials at the precinct will continuously monitor the pursuit to decide if it should be terminated.

“The officer involved in a pursuit is already multi-tasking,” said Deputy Chief Scott Peters. “He’s activating his lights, talking on the radio, observing what’s happening. He may not be looking at the big picture. Having a boss responsible for making the decision about whether to pursue gives us a degree of separation.”

Under the new rules defined by the RPD policy, officers engaging in a chase are required to keep radio transmissions to a bare minimum, only reporting updates on their location as safety permits. In addition, chases are now limited to two police vehicles and one supervisor in a vehicle. Officers on motorcycles are not allowed to take part in chases except in the most critical circumstances. Police are also barred from overtaking the suspect vehicle, as well as from boxing in or ramming it.

If a pursued suspect heads the wrong way on a highway, police are not allowed to follow. Instead, they must travel parallel on the correct side of the highway while keeping the suspect in their sights. The policy dictates that back-up units monitor any possible exits for if/when the suspect tries to get off the highway.

The new rules on police chases should not be taken as a sign to try fleeing the police. Even if you did escape, odds are you’ll still get caught; police often use GPS and other technologies to track and arrest suspects at their home or other places they frequent.

A police chase will only make your situation worse as you will likely be charged with fleeing an officer in addition to the initial charges. Fleeing an officer is at a minimum a misdemeanor and a conviction could mean up to one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines. In more serious situations, such as if someone was killed during the chase, it can be upgraded to a felony. A felony-level charge carries the potential for up to seven years in prison.

In addition, depending on your actions, you could be charged with reckless driving. Reckless driving charges apply in any scenario in which you put the safety of other drivers or pedestrians at risk. This might include going the wrong way on a main road or highway, or speeding through a pedestrian-heavy area.

If you or a loved one has been charged with fleeing a police officer, reckless driving, or any other traffic related offense in New York, it is essential that you retain a skilled attorney to help fight the serious consequences you may face. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are experienced criminal defense and traffic attorneys who will work for you to make sure your legal rights are protected. Call 888-203-2619 or email the Rosenblum Law Firm for a free consultation about your case today.

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