And there was much rejoicing…

from the bad guys.

This has to be the most retarded policy ever implemented by a city with respect to the police department.

Police officers become police officers because they like to chase bad guys.  That being said, most police departments have chase policies on when you can and can’t pursue bad guys.  But I’ve never heard of a policy this restrictive.

First off, most police chase policies focus on vehicle pursuits.  This is because something close to 40 percent of police chases end in crashes, and crashes mean hurt people and damaged property, which mean lawsuits.  And since the fleeing criminal is normally not a Rockefeller, the victims sue the police departments.   Restrictive policies tend to state something like “you can only pursue fleeing vehicles when there has been a felony committed”.  Less restrictive policies tend to say that “you can only pursue fleeing vehicles when a felony has been committed, an assault has taken place, if the driver is DWI, or something else that results in substantial risk to the public if the actor is allowed to abscond”.  This makes sense.

But NO chases, even on foot?!?!!  Seriously?  I could run through that town at 90mph in my car and not stop for a single traffic light and nobody will try and stop me?  If I’m a burglar walking down a back alley and a police officer yells for me to stop, all I have to do is jog away and he can’t stop me?  This mayor has done nothing but make the town a more dangerous place to live.

Not to mention what it does for morale in the police department.  Like I said before, most police officers LOVE to chase bad guys.  We have a predator mentality, and the bad guy running away from us is like the jackrabbit bursting out of the bush in front of a coyote.  Its almost impossible for us NOT to chase them, no more than my border collie mix can resist chasing the Frisbee.  You start taking that away from the officers, and they will react very negatively.  The job is hard enough as it is, and sometimes seems pointless anyway, but to take away the ability to apprehend all but the most cooperative criminals makes it nearly impossible.  The hard-charging, bad guy catching officers will either adapt to be less proactive and catch less bad guys, or they will move on to other police departments.

Note that this is a cost saving measure.  True, police officers do get hurt in foot pursuits.  Its a no brainer when you think about it: officers are wearing 20lbs of gear, are running on uneven terrain through unfamiliar territory, often over fences and through cluttered backyards, and all you have to do is step in a hole and you blow out a knee or ankle.  I’ve personally done that, hyper-extending my knee and being sidelined for 3 days.  But what does it cost the citizens and public when you want to save that $20k that Wellford wants to save.

It seems to me that we are in a bit of a transition period in law enforcement when it comes to pursuits.  The people overwhelmingly support police pursuits (71% according to this article), but police departments are often sued when the chase ends negatively.  Most policies (and legal precedents) don’t allow officers to take drastic measures to end pursuits (like PIT maneuvers or ramming), and deploying road spikes is often hard if not impossible.  Thus, the police are forced to either not chase at all, or only chase when they can justify the fallout of a bad ending.  “I know that the bad guy wrecked and killed someone, but he had just robbed a bank and we couldn’t let him get away”.  If that is what the public wants, then that is fine, but they have to weigh the negative results in letting more bad guys get away.  We will either continue towards the absurdity that is taking place in Wellford, or we will slowly swing back.  Only time will tell.


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