While some police officers have initiated high speed pursuits for violations that appear to be minimal, circumstances may exist of which the general public is not aware. What seems to be a simple traffic stop might be an escaping armed felon, a suspected kidnapper or other serious offender. The police officer is trained to know when a high speed pursuit is necessary. In order to justify such a pursuit the officer must consider the following:
· Nature of the violation.
· Time of day.
· Weather conditions.
· Geographic location.
· Population density.
· Familiarity with the area.
· Police vehicle capability.
· Speed required to maintain the pursuit.
· Proximity to school areas during school hours.
The preceding, are only guidelines and intended for guidance and are not meant to
be all- inclusive. ( Derived from the Detroit Police Department Manual)
According to the New York City Police Department manual:
“Department policy requires that a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if suspect is not immediately apprehended” (NYPD, 2000, p. 1).
Most police departments have similar restrictions.
I can’t deny that there have been officers that failed to heed these restrictions, and as a result, there have been innocent people injured and killed. This is a tragedy and these officers should face severe disciplinary action and retraining, but we should not tie the hands of those competent and prudent officers who follow guidelines and choose a high speed pursuit knowing that the threat presented by the suspect is greater than the threat to the public. Remember, the officer is risking his or her life in this pursuit as well!