Recent police pursuits in the Kansas metro area raise several important questions of whether officers who pursue fleeing criminals zipping through residential neighborhoods with the potential upside of nabbing a suspect worth putting innocent people in harm’s way.
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One of these pursuits, achieved multiple arrests, including the apprehension of a murder suspect. When handled appropriately, pursuits can be effective in catching a criminal trying to escape. Bottomline, police chases are innately dangerous for the officers, fleeing suspects and of course, innocent bystanders.
According to a 2015 report analyzed by the Hale Center for Journalism and The Kansas City Star, between 2004 and 2014, there were at least 707 pursuit-related crashes in the metro area. Nearly two dozen people were killed, and hundreds more were injured, including and nearly a dozen police officers.
From 2002 to 2012, more than 130 people died in police pursuits in Missouri and 45 in Kansas. The fatalities included pursued drivers and passengers, officers and, in some cases, bystanders. Some citizens are concerned and feel that officers should be held accountable. It is a “Catch 22” situation. In on one hand their goal is to protect citizens, but they are potentially causing harm at the same time.
Fortunately, no one was injured in late January 2018, when a motorist led police on a 30-minute pursuit through downtown Kansas City. During an earlier pursuit, the same man had already evaded police vehicles and a helicopter.
In less than 48 hours, another driver tried to elude Kansas City police during a high-speed car chase that crossed into Kansas City, Kansas. The driver reached speeds up to 100 mph, while driving on the wrong side of the road. Authorities in Kansas City ended the chase by sideswiping the speeding car. Three people inside were arrested.
A police research and policy group, Police Executive Research Forum, favors a model that allows pursuits only when an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a fleeing suspect has committed or attempted to commit a violent felony. It also requires officers how community members will be affected.
In 2017, Kansas City, Kansas Police Chief Terry Zeigler decided to reverse a more vigilant policy that limited pursuits to those who have committed known felonies. The department instituted the rule in 2014 after two fatal pursuits, and unfortunately low-level criminal suspects quickly caught on.
The current policy permits officers with probable cause to pursue a violator that has committed any crime, including a traffic violation. Sideswiping a vehicle is also acceptable in Kansas City only if used to prevent death or serious injury.
Official noted that each pursuit would be reviewed to ensure officers adhered to department guidelines.
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