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PERF report recommends limiting police pursuits to violent crimes, suspects who pose imminent threats

“You can get a suspect another day, but you can’t get a life back,” Executive Director Chuck Wexler said

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By Sarah Roebuck

WASHINGTON — The Police Executive Research Forum released a report on Tuesday (available in full below) detailing its recommendation of when to initiate a police pursuit.

In its report, “Vehicular Pursuits: A Guide for Law Enforcement Executives on Managing the Associated Risks,” PERF recommends that a pursuit should only be initiated under two conditions: (1) If a violent crime has already occurred and (2) if there is an immediate risk that the suspect will commit another violent crime.

If those two conditions are not met, the PERF report recommends agencies find a different way to accomplish the same outcome.

“You can get a suspect another day, but you can’t get a life back. We believe policy, training, and supervision should all support the core value of policing: the sanctity of human life,” Executive Director Chuck Wexler wrote in the report.

Acknowledging that there are circumstances when police need to engage in pursuits, Wexler noted that the report provides strategies for formulating policies that allow for such situations, as well as guidance on when to terminate pursuits. The report goes on to detail the risks of pursuits and reducing those risks.

According to PERF, pursuits pose dangers to officers, unsuspecting bystanders, suspects, and the community at large. The latest national data on police vehicle pursuits, taken from Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) for 2009 to 2013, revealed that for every 100 pursuits, there were two severe injuries and 10 minor injuries. Of these serious injuries, suspects accounted for 76%, non-involved persons accounted for 21%, and law enforcement officers made up 3%.

The report showed statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, revealing that in 2020, the number of fatal crashes related to police pursuits reached a peak of 455. This was the highest number since 2007 when the fatalities stood at 372.

Although there is no extensive national data to refer to, several police departments have reported a significant increase in the number of individuals attempting to evade law enforcement during traffic stops throughout the pandemic, the report said.

The report is broken up into six sections:

  • Agency philosophy and policy standards
  • Initiating and discontinuing the pursuit – the role of a supervisor
  • Pursuit interventions/alternatives and technology for managing pursuits
  • Post-pursuit reporting
  • Vehicle pursuit training
  • Community engagement.

Vehicular Pursuits: A Guide for Law Enforcement Executives on Managing the Associated Risks by on Scribd