On your mark, get set...wait! E-mail
Written by Cynthia Brown   

There's a new foot pursuit policy in the Austin, Texas Police Department. From now on, officers in that agency will have to ask themselves a long list of questions before chasing criminal suspects by foot. According to a report in the Austin American Statesman by Tony Plohetski, Austin police officers must evaluate the immediate danger, consider whether a suspect is known and can be arrested later, and ask themselves what would be gained from pursuing the suspect before beginning foot chases.

The change in policy resulted in part from an incident last year where an Austin sergeant was fired after it was determined that he acted inappropriately when he shot and killed a suspect during a foot pursuit last year.

According to the policy, officers must gauge the risk to themselves, fellow officers, suspects and bystanders.

The two-page document says that officers should consider whether a suspect may be armed and the availability of backup officers, and requires them to radio a description of the suspect and location of the chase to dispatchers.

That's quite a lot to ask a police officer to think about when he or she has to make a split-second decision. The new policy also says officers should consider ending a chase if the suspects' identities are known, and if they are not thought to be an immediate threat.

"The purpose of this policy is to facilitate the safe apprehension of a suspect who flees on foot to reduce the risk of injury to the officer, suspect and public," the policy reads.

The tragic situation where Officer Amy Donovan was killed when she was struck by her partner (who was driving their patrol car while Donovan chased a fleeing drug suspect on foot) in East Austin last year also contributed to the chief's belief that a change in the foot pursuit policy was needed.

Assistant Police Chief David Carter, who is the department's chief of staff, said Chief Acevedo initially began changes to the  policy soon after taking over the department last year.

"Anytime that you have something where you have a tactical consideration, where somebody, either a police officer or suspect, could be injured, the department needs to establish some kind of training and policy on the matter," Carter told the Statesman.

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Comments (3)Add Comment
written by andre, December 15, 2008
This is a ridiculous policy and one in which liability outweighs societal dangers and risks. It was obviously devised by an archaic individual with no street experience whatsoever. Our job is inherently dangerous and sometimes we have to do dangerous things. We hope that our training and experience is put to the test and brings us out of a situation.
written by Chicago Blue, December 23, 2008
The days of aggressive, pro-active, protect-the-public policing are OVER.

As cities have no obligation to provide police service and protect the public, they have realized that they can not get in civil liability trouble if their agents, the police, do nothing. It is when they do SOMETHING that it costs them.

The only it costs is the public that suffers.
Just let 'em all go.
written by Ringoesshire, August 10, 2009
This is ridiculous. Once the criminals know you won't chase them, they will run all the time. What do they have to loose. Police work is inherently dangerous, so teach tactics in apprehending, don’t give up. Might as well pack it in and let anarchy prevail. RCHP “always get their man”, I guest that is NOT the motto here.

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