A new report from the Police Executive Research Forum called for police to not start a pursuit unless a violent crime has been committed and the suspect poses an imminent threat, the Associated Press reports. The study released Tuesday follows a spike in fatalities from police chases during the pandemic and criticism of several police departments for the increased use of pursuits. “A lot of this has to do with the new thinking in policing today, which is about proportionality,” said PERF director Chuck Wexler. “It’s about the sanctity of life and balancing the risk to everyone. Police officers die in pursuits. Suspects die in pursuits and even citizens can be injured or die.”
Wexler said there are no national standards for when police chases are allowed and that there are situations when police must pursue someone. The report outlines ways to craft policies to allow for that as well as when to call pursuits off. Federal data that show fatal crashes involving a police pursuit peaked at 455 in 2020, the highest since at least 2007. Wexler said that even though there were fewer people driving during the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, those on the road were driving more recklessly. He said people rarely go to jail for reckless driving, for stolen cars or for many of the smaller crimes that officers have used to justify pursuits. Houston police officials announced last week that officers would no longer engage in vehicle pursuits for traffic offenses, nonviolent misdemeanors and some other minor offenses. Other departments, including New York City, have reversed course and broadened the range of suspected crimes for which chases are allowed.