If I have heard this once I have heard it ten thousand times. While the statement is certainly true, it is far from the whole story. The decision to pursue, or not to pursue, is a complex one and fraught with many pitfalls. When police agencies say that they are “damned if they do-and damned if they don’t”- that is certainly true as well. Research has shown several important facts:
- 40% of pursuits end in crashes. 20% of pursuits end in personal injury. 1% ends in death. Conclusion: Police pursuit is a high-risk activity with life or death consequences.
- Less that 17% of suspects flee for an underlying felony. Most suspects flee for no drivers license, no insurance, no registration, DUI, so their parents won’t find out, or like offenses. Conclusion: Your typical fleeing suspect is most probably, young, stupid or drunk-not a hardened criminal.
- When police departments tighten pursuit policies there is no increase in the number of suspects who flee. Conclusion: It is the same young, stupid, or drunk suspects who flee-no matter what the policy is, rampant crime is not the result of tight policy.
- When police discontinue or decline to pursue the fleeing suspects generally respond in a short distance by trying to blend in with traffic or by ditching the car and fleeing on foot. Conclusion: When police don’t chase the suspects don’t run for long and when a pursuit becomes dangerous the decision to disengage defuses the situation.