The death of a woman and her unborn child in Oklahoma City last week as the result of a high-speed chase brings up community discussions again of whether police departments should be chasing fleeing suspects.
This scenario happens all over the country, unfortunately. Hundreds of innocent bystanders, and even officers themselves, are injured or killed every year by pursuits. With the technology available today through GPS to track stolen vehicles, and also the availability cameras on nearly every corner of helicopters in large metro areas to track a fleeing vehicle, it would seem high-speed chases could be decreased.
No one can predict what a fleeing suspect is going to do if he or she gets into a chase. And, it’s also possible that the suspect will not slow down, even if police stop pursuing by vehicle. There is also legitimate concern that as more suspects resist police, incidents of high-speed pursuits are going up.
A high-speed chase is a use of deadly force. Many police departments have addressed their pursuit policies based on the speed, the people in the car and the crime that has been committed. We certainly see more of a need for chase if the suspect is suspected of committing murder or a violent crime, or is suspected of being heavily armed.
Should police engage in high-speed pursuits?
In the case last week, the suspect had stolen the truck, which the owner was already tracking with GPS. The chase ended in devastating results for two innocent victims. The suspect was hurt but will live.
According to Pursuit Response, a national pursuit victims advocacy group, there are alternatives to chasing. Examples include GPS tracking technology, driving simulator training, emergency smartphone alerts to drivers in the vicinity of an active pursuit, and other measures. The technology can no doubt be expensive for many departments.
It only seems logical this type of technology should be widely used in police departments of all sizes. We’d like to see both state legislatures and the federal government increase funding for technologies law enforcement can utilize to improve law enforcement and community safety for vehicle chases.