Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Oklahoman

Mark this one down as a pursuit that got way out of hand. Last week Oklahoma City Police spotted and pursued a stolen, bright yellow SUV.

During the pursuit the suspect led police off road and through a city park. Children were playing baseball while parents were shocked at the scene playing itself out in front of them. Shortly after the pursuit exited the park a gunfight erupted between the fleeing car and police. At the end, one suspect was shot dead.

OCPD has pledged a review of the chase as it relates to the department's pursuit policy and the Police Chief has offered to meet with the concerned parents.

From the story in The Oklahoman:

John Phillips' sister died in 2001 when her car was hit by a vehicle police were chasing in Florida. Phillips operates a website,, that tracks pursuit statistics and policies.

Phillips said officers have to be trained to recognize that their job isn't always to make an arrest. Sometimes, protecting the public means stopping a chase before it gets too dangerous, and chasing a stolen vehicle through a park where children are playing would obviously fit that category, he said.

“It's fortunate that no one else was hurt,” Phillips said. “If you continue to pursue like this and allow your officers to get in these situations, it's a matter of time before an innocent person is injured or killed.”

Further, the department adopted an updated policy in 2006 after several deadly chases. The change required a supervisor to monitor the chase over the radio and determine if the circumstances were too dangerous to continue. Of course, there are several problems with a policy like this. First, since a majority of pursuit crashes occur within the first 2 minutes of a chase, relying on a supervisor to appropriately judge the conditions in time is very difficult. Next, conditions can often chance so fast that the decision to call off a pursuit might be too late. It is best to have a clear policy that states which crimes warrant a pursuit and not rely so much on conditions and supervisor intervention.