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High-Speed Police Chases: Not Worth the Risk

9:28 AM PDT on March 22, 2016

High-speed police chases have no place in crowded cities. The risk of killing innocent bystanders is just too high to justify maybe preventing the "bad guy" from getting away.

Police chases: not worth the risk. Photo: Wikipedia
After seven innocent people were killed in five years, Louisville revised its police chase policy, and no one has been killed by a pursuit since. Photo: Wikipedia
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Branden Klayko at Network blog Broken Sidewalk reports that Louisville recently revised its police chase policy to become "among the strictest in the country," and it's saving lives:

In 2012, a police pursuit of a drug suspect ended up killing Stephanie Melson, a mother of three, after the suspect ran a stop sign. “Melson’s death was the catalyst for newly arrived Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad to overhaul the department’s pursuit policy,” Riley wrote, “to try and reduce the risk of collisions and fatalities from police chases.”

The policy, instituted in December 2012 and updated several times since then, states that LMPD officers can only pursue suspects involved with a violent felony, according to [local WDRB reporter Jason] Riley. Otherwise, the chase must be called off. “As of last year, they have to stop, turn around and drive the opposite direction to show the suspect they are not being followed,” Riley reported.

According to WDRB’s numbers, provided by LMPD, seven people were killed as a result of pursuits in the five years before the policy. Since 2013, there have been no deaths related to police chases. Total police chases have dropped by by over half since the change.

That’s a serious increase in street safety.

Nationwide since 1979, more than 5,000 people have been died as a result of police chases, according to a 2015 USA Today analysis cited in Riley’s report. Over that same time, 171 Kentuckians have been killed by such high-speed pursuits. Tens of thousands more have been injured.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Urbanist reports that Seattle's University Link light rail extension to the University of Washington opened this week to "great fanfare." Systemic Failure jeers the city of Fremont, California, which used a Safe Routes to School Grant to remove a bike lane and widen an already dangerous road. And Mobilizing the Region relays the disappointing news that the city of Camden is planning to make its awful waterfront parking crater even worse.

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