Press Release Summary = Area police chiefs pursuing a way to better insulate the public from fleeing criminals are planning a meeting with prosecutors for next month.
Press Release Body = Area police chiefs pursuing a way to better insulate the public from fleeing criminals are planning a meeting with prosecutors for next month.
Their agenda includes the possibility of more uniform policies among the region\'s many jurisdictions about when officers should give chase - and when they should back off.
Meanwhile, a Missouri lawmaker proposed tougher penalties Thursday for drivers who try to elude police.
Rep. Jack Jackson, R-Wildwood, said he will push for such drivers to be charged with felonies, which potentially means prison. Under current law, only those who flee recklessly can be prosecuted as felons
\"What I\'m trying to tell citizens is if a policeman pulls up behind you, pull over and stop,\" Jackson said. \"That\'s all we ask.\"
But it is frequently the police who are second-guessed after engaging in high-speed chases. The criticism comes publicly from activist groups, and behind the scenes from departments that gripe about reckless actions by their peers.
\"Pursuits are probably one of the biggest problems for agencies,\" said John Connolly, chief of police in Manchester and an advocate of restrictive pursuit policies.
As the former longtime chief in Normandy, Connolly said he saw too many high-speed chases by departments in north St. Louis County.
There is little uniformity among St. Louis-area policies, a fact that often leads to confusion between departments. Police in St. Louis County municipalities frequently pursue cars into St. Louis city, whose officers are not permitted to join them. Other differences abound:
Woodson Terrace permits officers to consider a pursuit whenever a driver flees. Town & Country permits chases if the driver is suspected of committing a variety of crimes, from murder to burglary.
But a chase that is permitted in one of those cities might not be in Webster Groves, where officers can pursue a car if an officer believes the suspect presents a threat to other motorists, has committed or attempted a dangerous felony, or when the need to apprehend him outweighs the danger of a chase.
Questions linger about the pursuit of a van by Maplewood officers on Jan. 30.
News helicopters recorded the chase, which cut across busy St. Louis streets and rushed past several school buses. Maplewood officers had apparently tried to stop the fleeing vehicle after a report of a gas theft, but their bosses have not said publicly whether they regard the chase as justified.
The FBI is investigating whether officers - three from Maplewood and one from St. Louis - violated the civil rights of the suspect, Edmon Burns, by beating and kicking him after he ran from the van.
Connolly, the Manchester chief, said he would not have allowed such a chase. \"If that had occurred in the city of Manchester, or in the city of Normandy when I was chief, it would have been a bad chase,\" he said.
After the incident, Maplewood city officials met with the NAACP, whose leaders called for a uniform policy for all St. Louis-area departments.
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