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Opening Arguments

Hot pursuit

Some changes in urban living are obvious -- the declining risk of dangerous fires as building materials have changed and safety precautions increased, for example. But some aren't as immediately noticeable:

Almost all U.S. law enforcement agencies have adopted a restrictive pursuit policy, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Much to the dismay of TV executives, most cops will no longer conduct long chases that start when the officer tries to pull a motorist over for a broken taillight (though cops still chase suspected felons and other serious bad guys.) Before restrictive-pursuit policies, often the worst thing that officers found at the end of a chase was a suspended license, an ashtray full of seeds and stems, or empty beer cans in the pickup bed. Now, many law enforcement agencies have decided that it's not worth the danger when such chases could cause the death of the suspect, an officer, or an innocent.

[. . .]

Nine years later, Vaughan says he no longer needs to preach so fervently. "Departments and officers now accept they have to weigh the risk of the chase against the need to apprehend," he says. "Chasing someone for a gas drive-away doesn't makes sense. Chasing someone through a crowded mall parking lot doesn't make sense. At 1 am with no traffic on an empty highway and a suspect car that matches a description of one involved in a robbery . . . well, then a chase may be appropriate."

I've been writing about this for at least 20 years, and each time I took a new look the need for that risk-weighing became more obvious and the arguments for unlimited pursuit seemed more strained. In case you didn't know, Indiana is part of this trend, too. Fort Wayne began a restricted chase policy several years ago, and Indianapolis joined the club in 2011.

We're in ednough danger from the bad guys. We don't need to add risk from the good guys who don't know when to quit.