Police chiefs may try to set rules on car chases

Released on = February 24, 2006, 9:08 am

Press Release Author = 4-Poster.com

Industry = Media

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

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

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

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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