Police pursuits are ‘dangerous situations.’ What rules do CMPD officers follow during chases?

·3 min read

Though they are sometimes necessary, police pursuits can be harrowing to officers and motorists because of their unpredictable nature and unknown variables.

On Wednesday, a man wanted for questioning in an alleged burglary stole four vehicles during a two-hour pursuit throughout Charlotte and South Carolina before being arrested by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers, authorities said.

No serious injuries were reported from the incident, but CMPD said the suspect endangered other drivers by speeding, swerving and driving erratically along busy Charlotte roads.

While Wednesday’s event did not result in injury or worse for those involved, police pursuits, there have been recent occasions when pedestrians or motorists have died.

In January, Brittany Webb died after a vehicle collided with hers during a police chase, WCNC reported. A week after, Micky Brown suffered the same fate when a teen driver fleeing a traffic stop slammed into his truck.

A WCNC news report later found that the number of CMPD pursuits has quadrupled over the last decade, from 22 in 2011 to 97 in 2021, but the department did not provide a breakdown of how those pursuits ended.

Here are CMPD policies for when officers can pursue a suspect, what maneuvers can be used to stop a vehicle and when a chase must cease.

When can CMPD officers pursue a fleeing vehicle?

According to the CMPD Interactive Directives Guide, officers can pursue an individual if:

  • The officer has reasonable suspicion that the driver or occupant of a vehicle has committed or is attempting to commit a crime dangerous to life.

  • The officer needs to apprehend a suspect because of potential harm to the public if they are allowed to escape.

When pursuing a vehicle, an officer must consider a number of factors before choosing to exceed the posted speed limit, including the severity of the offense committed by the suspect, pedestrian, vehicular traffic and road conditions.

CMPD officers have the authority to pursue a person who is “in immediate and continuous flight” outside of Mecklenburg County and in South Carolina, the guide states.

What methods can CMPD officers use to stop a vehicle?

To stop a vehicle, officers often use precision immobilization techniques or PIT maneuvers. This tactic is done by initiating contact between the fleeing vehicle and a police vehicle, department policy states.

Officers can also use tire deflation devices to disable a vehicle by causing the controlled release of air from a vehicle’s tires. This method allows the driver to remain in control of the vehicle and come to a stop safely, the guide says. The devices may also be used if an officer suspects a person will flee.

When do CMPD officers call off a pursuit?

According to CMPD policy, a pursuit will be terminated if:

  • There is an unreasonable danger to officers or the public.

  • Traffic, roadway or environmental conditions create an unreasonable danger.

  • If the pursued vehicle’s location is no longer known.

  • Officers are notified by their supervisors to do so.

  • When an officer’s communication with their dispatcher or supervisor is lost.

Are police officers required to record pursuits?

Audio and video equipment are also required for the entire duration of the pursuit, according to the CMPD Interactive Directives Guide. Footage from pursuits is kept for a minimum of three years.

Officers are also required to wear body cameras for vehicle and foot pursuits, the guide says.