Editorial: Police chases are a danger to the public

One person dies every day from a police pursuit, according to an article, “Evidence-based decisions on police pursuits” published on the FBI website. The article notes the following statistics about high-speed pursuits studied from 1994-1998: 

• Most chases start with a traffic violation stop.
• From 1994-1998, one police officer was killed every 11 weeks during a pursuit.
• 1 percent of all officers who died while on duty died during pursuits.
•42 percent of people killed or injured by police pursuits were innocent bystanders.
• One fatality resulted out of every 100 high-speed chases.

The article goes on to note that:

“One of the dilemmas faced by law enforcement is whether or not to continue a chase. Stated differently, the question is, what are the consequences of continuing or terminating a dangerous pursuit? Most policies include the balanced and reasonable approach and require officers to terminate when the risks created by the chase outweigh the need to immediately apprehend. It is understood that when an officer terminates his active involvement in a pursuit, the suspect likely will escape apprehension at that time.”

With that said, what if the high-speed chase through Strasburg on Thursday night had been one of those 100 chases in which someone had died? Luckily, nobody was killed, but one of the police cars was wrecked and an officer and his K-9 were injured in the crash.

The decision to continue the chase through a populated area at speeds up to 60 mph – and in this case an active construction zone where workers have been working on a major utility project – put not only the officers involved in the chase in danger, but also those construction workers, other motorists and bystanders as well.

Perhaps it’s time we ask local, county and state police to re-examine their high-speed pursuit policies – especially when cars going 60 mph enter our small towns.