Thursday, October 16, 2008

Austin foot chase restrictions intended to reduce risk

Having discussed police departments' chase polices for vehicles on Grits in the past, I was interested to see this story from the Austin Statesman ("Austin police adopting new foot chase policy," Oct. 15) about the Austin police creating a more restrictive policy for foot chases:

The issue of when — and how — such pursuits should happen had fueled debate about whether a fired sergeant acted appropriately when he shot and killed Kevin Alexander Brown last year.

The policy establishes criteria officers should evaluate before beginning a chase and how they should respond during a pursuit.

According to the policy, officers must gauge the risk to themselves, fellow officers, suspects and bystanders. The two-page policy says that officers should consider whether a suspect may be armed and the availability of backup officers, and it requires them to radio a description of the suspect and location of the chase to dispatchers.

It also says officers should consider ending a chase if the suspects' identities are known and if they are not thought to be an immediate threat.

"The purpose of this policy is to facilitate the safe apprehension of a suspect who flees on foot to reduce the risk of injury to the officer, suspect and public," the policy says.


Anonymous said...

Sorry dead guy, if you run from the police you deserve what you get. Everyone knows that.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"if you run from the police you deserve what you get"

One of the two deaths from foot chases that caused them to create the policy was a police officer. Did she "deserve" it?

Anonymous said...

It is a tragedy that an officer was killed; however, there are risks that go with being a police officer. I am all for minimizing those risks; however, when it gets to the point where we quit chasing people who flee from the police, it borderlines on ridiculous.

If you run from the police, they chase, catch, (sometimes beat), and place you in jail. Its a simple rule.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It's a tragedy but you don't care to do anything about it even when it's preventable?

Why not avoid a possible tragedy when "if the suspects' identities are known and if they are not thought to be an immediate threat"?

The new APD policy is also a "simple rule," and one that makes more sense for everybody involved than the informal "rule" to which you refer.

Anonymous said...

Well, it is a simple rule that will change, I assure you.

Let an officer make a decision not to chase and the suspect gets away only to commit a serious crime, they will once again reevaluate their policy.

All rules are always one incident away from changing.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You can say that, but the trend at departments everywhere has been to become more restrictive about chases, in both vehicles and on foot, because it's essentially the most dangerous activity officers engage in and the source of a significant proportion of police officers' on the job injuries and deaths.

You're right that "All rules are always one incident away from changing," but in recent years, such incidents have tended to spur departments to restrict chases instead of further expand them.

Anonymous said...

Police Departments have elected to become more restrictive in pursuit policies due to increased injuries to officers, the observing public, as well as the public attention from the media, and lawsuits from those injured during the pursuit.

The public and law enforcement agencies are raising the question of how far should an officer go in his pursuit of a suspect in order to protect the public.

Like it or not, whatever the motivation for establishing these policies, the result is often one where the officer's decision making process becomes so complicated because he or she has to react almost instantaneously to what is happening in front of them, that they just decide to not engage in pursuit. They take the safest way out of the delemma. Unfortunately today, departments, the public and the media spend a lot of time second guessing what a street officer is doing, and often judging them negatively. They come to feel "damned if they do, and damned if they don't". Look at the article on Grits about the officer who responded to the football player and his body guard in the hotel restroom as an example.

Austin criminals now know that if they want to commit a crime, they have an advantage if they do so in a publicly congested area. So unless, the "Joe the Plumber Citizen" becomes more willing to assist pursuing officers in helping to stop the fleeing bad guy, officers may tend to take the path of least resistance, hoping to avoid discipline. This is unfortunate as it dampens police morale, provides less effective enforcement, and lets the bad guy escape until another day. Unfortunatly, in our litigation oriented society, everyone needs a lawyer in their back pocket to consult with on even the simplest of decisions. We are losing our sense of confidence in "common sense" and exchanging it for "lawyer dollars and cents"