Pursuit issues have long been a public safety problem, but the majority of these issues are related to vehicles. Police are afraid that pursuing vehicles can result in pedestrian deaths, personal injury lawsuits, auto injuries, and property damage. They are likewise afraid of making a bad situation worse. It is more complicated by the fact that fleeing a police officer is itself a criminal act and in some states, the stakes are very high. While you will not see prosecutions like this in Illinois, certain Southern states can charge you with murder if a police officer murders your friend who is also fleeing police. In other words, there is a lot of controversy over pursuit of suspects, how to do it safely, and how to avoid lawsuits.
What we have not seen is a foot pursuit policy. This is largely because if a police officer accidentally steamrolls a bystander, they are not critically injured in the process. Nonetheless, foot pursuits do result in avoidable shootings and one of the most recent examples of this involved a 13-year-old boy.
It is believed that the new foot pursuit policy will help prevent shootings related to minor offenses. Police will now have an identifiable policy on when they are allowed to place themselves, bystanders, or the suspect in danger. This should help reduce the overall number of police interactions.
What are the New Rules?
Police are largely still allowed to pursue a suspect who is about to commit a felony or has just committed a felony. Additionally, certain Class A misdemeanors will qualify for foot pursuit such as domestic battery. Lastly, traffic infractions that place the public in danger such as DUI, reckless driving, or street racing may qualify for pursuit.
Police officers will no longer be able to pursue those who they suspect of minor violations, license suspensions, and public drunkenness. The litmus test for whether or not the pursuit is warranted will depend on whether or not the person poses an obvious risk to any member of the public.
The new rules may not be radical in terms of their scope, but they do place an important restriction on police officers. They can no longer chase a suspect simply because they run away. While “tough on crime” advocates think this gives criminals an easy way to avoid police, the measure also protects police from potentially dangerous situations. Even the most cynical among us do not believe that a police officer is “okay” after taking the life of a 13-year-old boy no matter what the justification. Nonetheless, the new policy would not have stopped the shooting death of the 13-year-old boy. The same cannot be said for the 23-year-old man who was shot and killed by police simply because he ran.
While the new policy is meant to protect the public, you can still be charged with a crime for fleeing police after a detention and you really do not want to press your luck abusing the new rules simply to avoid a fine related to a misdemeanor.
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