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LAPD Wants to Stop Some Car Chases

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

LAPD Wants to Stop Some Car Chases

Brian Purchia
January 8, 2003

LAPD Chase Policy

In Los Angeles, the new police chief, Bill Bratton, has been making news. Chief Bratton wants to prohibit his officers from engaging in high-speed chases in the pursuit of drivers who have committed only minor traffic offenses. He says those chases are too dangerous and too expensive. Brian Purchia has the story.

Pursuits are so common here; the police are schooled in special driving techniques. They chase cars. They chase trucks. They even chase buses, and very often the result is bloodshed and death. Every month, chases in Los Angeles result in horrific crashes. The new Los Angeles police chief, William Bratton, wants to put public safety first.

"In 2001, we had 781 documented pursuits, 283 of those ended in collisions, 139 with injuries, and six fatalities."

Chief Bratton wants to stop pursuing drivers for minor infractions, such as broken tail lights and missing license plates; a change that would cut pursuits by 60 percent, while reducing accidental injuries and resulting lawsuits. Criminologist Geoffrey Alpert.

“Pursuit is a balance. It's a balance of the need to immediately apprehend the suspect against the risks of the pursuit. And if you're chasing someone for running a red light or running a stop sign then the risk to the public should not be great."

Other cities and states have already reached that conclusion. But, in California, the car pursuit is part of the culture of policing, and entertainment.

Television stations go live for hot pursuits. There's even a service that will send a beeper alert to avid watchers of car chases.

"You don't know what the final score is going to be: are they going to run out of gas? Are they going to crash, or are they going to hit the spike strips and get flat tires?

Chief Bratton says car chases are not meant to be entertainment. In his words, the benefit to law enforcement is not worth the cost.

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