High Speed Pursuits

Watched an episode on Discovery last Sunday on high speed car chases. Pretty good show, and relatively balanced although I got the impression that maybe the makers of the show had some leanings towards getting rid of car chases.

So, what do the Teeming Millions think? Should police pursue people fleeing in a vehicle at high speed?

So other considerations to get us going:

  1. Should the do so for minor breaches of the law (i.e. burned out tail light)?

  2. Should they only pursue when they villian is a definite threat to life?

  3. When should they break off pursuit?

Personally, my take on it is this.

For minor stuff, get the license plate number and track them down later. If you can’t get it, or it is missing let them go.

For major stuff, go get 'em!

However, I want to add that I think if a person runs from the police even for something minor they should be punished extensively for it. There is no excuse to run from the law and it really bugs me! I would go so far to saw that a person who runs from the law in particular for a minor offense should be punished more severely since they display a true lack of respect for everybody else and sense of priority.

Let the games begin.

What more could you expect from somebody who lets people kick him to the head?

Running from the police is verrrry stupid; all the time on COPS and Real Stories of the Highway Patrol you see people fleeing for the most minor of offenses (going through a stop sign or speeding). I guess it offers a thrill; I mean, haven’t we all fantasized about just flooring when we see the officer walking towards our car? On whether cops should chase, I think that the reason they will chase someone down for fleeing even a minor offense is that it arouses the police officer’s suspicion that the offender might have something to hide, an outstanding warrant, etc.

There are certainly times when high-speed chases may not be a good idea, but I don’t think we can make a blanket statement. For example, can you imagine what would happen if the police in a given community went public in saying they will not engage in high-speed chases? See a cop coming and know you did something wrong? Just speed away – you know they won’t chase you.

I heard some community activist ask police only to high-speed-pursue when there was probable cause. He didn’t say exactly what that would be, though.

Some of these chases start after a traffic stop, but then the “suspect” peels out, hoping to lose the cop by the element of surprise and a head start. What if: cops were allowed to place “puncture stars” under the tire(s) of cars they stop. They would talk to the driver and explain what will happen if they move. After the ticketing process is over, they’d remove them and let the driver be on their way. And if they’re some idiot that wants to run away, they’ll be hampered by flats.

It’s probably a danger to the cops safety to be putting stuff under the tires of cars. I don’t think they’d want to be distracted by that.

I think more of a problem is the high speed/no lights thing. Now that’s just stupid. Yeah, i’m gonna go 90 through an intersection with no lights on.

The only way to rid yourself of temptation is to yield to it–Oscar Wilde

I think it should be left up to the discretion of the police officer, but definitely if the chase is endangering lives it should be stopped. Is it worth running the risk of running over a bystander to catch a panicking drunk?

There is even less reason if the police have noted the license plate of the vehicle. In how many cases of high-speed chases does it turn out that the person was driving a stolen vehicle? That could also influence the debate.

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

When someone takes off after being stopped for a minor offense, that IS probable cause. He’s probably not running to avoid the ticket for a broken light - he’s running because he thinks he got stopped for the drugs he’s carrying, or for the body in the trunk, or whatever.

One of my closest friends lost both her parents when they were hit by a man chased in hot pursuit, so I have an emotional bias.

I feel that hot pursuit is over-used and often endangers the very people the police are trying to protect - us. I cannot think of any circumstances when a hot pursuit chase should take place without police using their sirens and lights.

I would rather that the police depended on roadblocks, helicopters and other alternative means of forcing a suspect off the road than chasing them at high speed through even a sparsely populated area.

Without high-speed pursuits, we wouldn’t have 90% of the episodes of COPS. This would lead to boredom among TV viewers – particularly the kinds of viewers who like to watch COPS – thus enticing them to go out on shooting sprees. Then the whole country would be engulfed in a great big riot.

Quick-N-Dirty Aviation: Trading altitude for airspeed since 1992.

This is currently a hot topic in Toledo, where three or so high speed pursuits in the last 18 months have led to fatalities. In general, the local police refuse to seriously review the policy on high-speed chases.

Clearly, there ought to be a measure of proportionality with the seriousness of the alleged crime for which the person is to be apprehended. In addition, the condition of the chase should be considered.

Unfortunately, the police, I think, tend to view the pursuit with the typical ‘us v. them’ mentality that plaugues police departments these days, where the ‘war on crime’ turns them from civil servants and peace officers into soldiers against criminals…

I don’t have any hard and fast position on high speed chases- I just wish police would employ a little common sense. This subject is fresh on my mind, because here in Austin, just last week, a high speed chase led to the death of a 17 year old girl.

How? In a nutshell, a bunch of teenagers were hanging out in a local park after midnight, in violation of curfew laws. What were they doing? Who knows… presumably either making out, drinking beer, or smoking a little weed, as kids are wont to do. When a police car pulled up, the kid ran to their cars and motorcycles and (not surprisingly)took off in a hurry. The police pursued at high speed, and ran a motorcycle off the road.

Now… high speed chases are always potentially dangerous, but at times, they may be necessary. If a dangerous felon is on the loose, he’s got to be caught. But to turn a curfew violation into a high speed chase in almost unforgivable. Even if the kids hadn’t taken off, chances are they’d have been let go with a warning/fine, or taken home to their parents. Even a real hard-ass cop could/should have been content to take down their license plate numbers and call their parents the next day.

Was there any need to get macho and speed-happy in this case? Is there any need in MOST cases?

Running from the cops is generally a bad idea on a lot of fronts.

But I would also note that the people shown being chased on those shows cannot drive for shit. They often pick just about the slowest line through turns, or brake while cornering, etc. And that’s when they’re not just running into trees. Mario Andretti these folks ain’t.

peas on earth


  1. Should the do so for minor breaches of the law (i.e. burned out tail light)?

Certainly not.
2) Should they only pursue when they villian is a definite threat to life?

Well, definately THEN.
3) When should they break off pursuit?

When the danger of innocent people getting hurt becomes too great. But then again, the same reasoning might be used to continue even more aggressively in order to stop the whole thing as soon as possible.
Bantmoff, I always think the same thing ! You see these helicopter views of people cornering, and I’ll be sitting there thinking, “Damn, that’s some lousy driving ! I could easily outrun the chasee AND the chasers !” :wink:


“You know how complex women are”

  • Neil Peart, Rush (1993)

No, and I think you just put your finger on it. They get a rush putting everyone’s life in jeopardy.

Why do cops patrol the interstate at 80 mph and pull you over for doing 20 less?

Why do they do 50 mph on a backstreet, crossing the double yellow to get past you, and then pull into the bagel shop on the corner?

For the same reason a dog licks his balls. BECAUSE HE CAN!!!