To Chase, Or Not To Chase

6:51 PM, Nov 4, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - New York State Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding their pursuit of a vehicle in downtown Buffalo Sunday afternoon, which lead to several injuries.

Such incidents often raise questions regarding the wisdom of such pursuits, and the policies of police agencies regarding when to give chase and when to back off.

"I'm surprised they're still engaging in these high speed chases," said Francis Letro, who was a plaintiff's attorney in a landmark case where State Police were found by a jury to be liable for the deaths of three people in a 1992 high speed chase in Cattaraugus County, and which was partially responsible for establishing modern police pursuit policies.

"Police ought to be given every tool and opportunity to apprehend a fleeing suspect or a known criminal. However, police chase cases are inherently dangerous, and studies have shown that the negative outcomes far outweigh the positive results," Letro told WGRZ-TV.

"A speeding car in a high speed chase has the equivalent lethal energy of a bullet fired from a gun...and police should give the same consideration to engaging in a high speed chase that they do before they discharge a weapon," Letro said.

In an e-mail, NY State Police Director of Public Information Darcy Wells told Two on Your Side:

"Due to safety and security reasons - we do not release our motor vehicle pursuit policy. We can confirm that the New York State Police pursuit policy integrates both officer safety and public safety concerns with the member's duty to enforce the law. In the decision to continue a pursuit, the protections and safety of the public, occupants of the pursued vehicle and the pursing police officer must be weighed against the dangers involved."

Generally, police officers in all types of situations, have a certain amount of discretion. Letro says it's his understanding the state police chase policy requires pursuing officers get permission from a dispatcher to continue a chase.

In this particular incident, however, the chase lasted perhaps less than a minute, before the vehicle being pursued ran a red light and hit other cars.

"It's never a good idea to engage in a high speed chase, as a general principle," said Letro. "Police officers should be given the tools to apprehend a fleeing suspect under conditions that do not put the general public at risk."

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Scott May. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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