07.21.15

Police Pursuits Create Unnecessary Risk for Public

A recent article in the Kansas City Star highlights the public safety risk caused by inconsistent police pursuit rules across the region. Because the metropolitan area includes two states, six counties, and over 60 police departments, there are no standard procedures for pursuing fleeing suspected criminals.

Although they are not as publicized as other kinds of police misconduct, high-speed pursuits cause more deaths than any other kind of police activity. One-third of all pursuits have a negative outcome and one-third of deaths are innocent bystanders. Between 2002 and 2012, nearly 4,000 people were killed as a result of police pursuits in the United States, including 133 deaths in Missouri and 45 in Kansas.

The problem is exacerbated by the numerous different police departments in the metropolitan area, each of whom has their own rules and procedures for when to initiate a high-speed chase. The pursuits often cross jurisdictional lines, endangering citizens in areas that do not allow their own police officers to engage in high-speed pursuits over minor transgressions.

In 2013, only 52 of 338 Missouri Highway Patrol pursuits were the result of suspected felonies. Approximately 80 percent occurred after traffic infractions or other misdemeanors. The fact that any lives at all are lost because of a routine traffic stop is a tragedy. It is well past the time when the various jurisdictions in the Kansas City area and elsewhere in Missouri need to get together and devise a sensible policy that balances the need to arrest violent criminals against the right of the public to be safe from unnecessary high-speed police chases.

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