Salt Lake County Changes Police Chase Policy

Salt Lake County Changes Police Chase Policy

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John Daley reportingPolice car chases can be dangerous, even deadly. Now, in a growing trend, Salt Lake County is changing its policy to only chase suspects in the most extreme crimes.

For years Salt Lake City and South Salt Lake have restricted police officers from beginning a pursuit unless the crime in question is a violent felony, which includes things like a murder, rape or aggravated assault. Now other agencies are doing the same.

With dash cams and chopper cams and TV shows documenting the get-away and the hot pursuit, police chases have become a staple of modern life. But in our increasingly congested cities, police agencies are reviewing the wisdom of that policy.

Paul Jaroscak/ Salt Lake County Sheriff's Dept.: "It gets harder and harder to justify some of the pursuits that are being conducted when the violations are minor."

In Salt Lake County, the decision to pursue used to be based on the judgment of the individual deputy, who considered things like what crime was committed, did they know the suspect, the road conditions.

As of June 1st the county is changing its policy to restrict pursuits only for suspects of "violent felonies."

Paul Jaroscak/ Salt Lake County Sheriff's Dept.: "This is in response obviously to the clamor right now over police pursuits and the dangerousness and the liability that's involved in these pursuits."

Murray and West Jordan now have similar policies and police chiefs have been working towards a valley-wide consensus. Not everyone is happy with the change, and some officers and agencies believe a crime-fighting tool is being taken away.

But South Salt Lake, which went to the more restricted pursuit policy three years ago, says the move has been a good one.

Capt. Tracy Tingey/ South Salt Lake Police Dept.: "To try to justify why you killed someone in a traffic accident during the course of a pursuit when the car was stolen or even worse, when the plates were just expired or something like that. And I've seen that happen time and time again throughout the years. It just can't continue."

Some agencies, including Utah Highway Patrol, West Valley City and Taylorsville, say their policies are working well and they are not changing to a "violent felonies only" pursuit policy. But some larger cities are too making the change, including the capitol of the high-speed chase, Los Angeles.

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