Police pursuits: Are they justifiable — and if so, when?

From the story: “Pursuits are never completely safe; are the risks worth the outcomes?” Retired Police Captain Thomas Gleason asked when I spoke with him on the phone from Florida. Gleason began working with PursuitSAFETY after his son, who worked in law enforcement, was killed in a car crash 20 years ago.

“In the ’70s, it was basically chase until the wheels fall off,” said Geoff Alpert, who teaches criminal justice in the University of South Carolina’s criminology department. “If you dared to flee from police, they would chase you at all costs. [But] in the ’80s, some departments and scholars started looking at the numbers.”

Alpert has worked for years to help a group called PursuitSAFETY, a national nonprofit that tries to prevent crashes caused by high-speed chases. Read more in the Minnesota Post.

Police Pursuits Kill the Innocent.


Mark Priano, PursuitSAFETY board member, knows vehicular police pursuits kill the innocent. Pursuits are the most dangerous police tactic to the average citizen, killing more innocent bystanders than bullets from officers’ firearms. Pursuits are the most dangerous police tactic to the average citizen, killing more innocent bystanders than bullets from officers’ firearms. Listen on KZFR.

Court documents show suspect in deadly police chase reached speeds of 120 mph

Innocent bystanders, Amanda Chatman, and her two sons killed in the crash. Court documents show suspect in deadly police chase reached speeds of 120 mph. PursuitSAFETY’s executive director, Esther Seoanes, talks about police pursuit policy to NewsChannel 5 in Nashville and says, “We’re talking about people’s lives and that’s what we care about.” Watch on News Channel 5.

Have police pursuit bans in the US helped?

Carmen Yanko (left) was one of the three people who died in Sunday’s crash located in New Zealand near Hope. Yanko had left her house in the Hope area to set up her regular stall at Nelson’s Sunday market. She was driving to the market when a car fleeing police crossed the center line at 5.40am and crashed head-on into her vehicle on State Highway 6 at Hope.

The podcast below discusses this horrific police chase that took another innocent victim’s life.

“While debate continues in the wake of the weekend’s fatal police chase about whether the police need to change their pursuit policy, a retired American police captain says restrictive policies adopted by police departments in the US have yielded successful results. The drivers were fleeing from police when their car crashed head-on into another car near Nelson on Sunday morning. They were killed, along with the driver of the car they hit, Carmen Yanko.

Lucas Aragon

Lucas Aragon, PursuitSAFETY media rep in Los Angeles area, speaks to NBC Los Angeles November 2017. “Every time I see a police chase on the news, I think of the families that are affected by it and how I felt when I was affected by it,” Lucas Aragon, whose sister was killed during a pursuit, said. Watch the entire interview on Southern California Sees Dramatic Surge in Police Pursuits Since Last Year.

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  • Ventura County Star

    Lucas Aragon, PursuitSAFETY’s media representative in Los Angeles provided great input into this excellent article:

    Police say pursuit policies are a balance between need and public safety by John Scheibe

    One of the most dangerous things law enforcement officers engage in is pursuing a motorist who refuses to stop.

    At least 11,506 people were killed during police chases across the nation from 1979 through 2013, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. …For the rest of the story, click here: Ventura County Star.

  • CBS KEYE TV in Austin

    PursuitSAFETY’s executive director Esther Seoanes speaks out on how police departments can save lives: chase for only violent felons.

  • L.A. Times
  • The Press Enterprise

  • Detroit Free Press
  • Safer Way Award

  • SF Chronicle

    Are police chases too dangerous?
    By Evan Sernoffsky
    San Francisco Chronicle
    June 6, 1015

    Three times in the past three months, suspects racing away from San Francisco police have plowed their cars into innocent people, killing a woman and sending several others to hospitals. Each time, officers apparently followed department policy. But in the aftermath of twisted metal and grief, a long-nagging question has re-emerged:

    When, why and for how long should police chase bad guys fleeing in cars, especially in a densely populated city like San Francisco?

    It’s that balance of risk versus reward. Was the pursuit necessary?
    Was there an alternative way? —Candy Priano

    Police say sometimes chases are necessary, even if they can result in accidents, if society wants to keep dangerous felons off the street. Critics say authorities in many cases should hit the brake pedal as soon as lawbreakers hit the gas and start threading through traffic.

    “Chases enhance the risk to the public in many cases,” said Candy Priano, executive director of PursuitSAFETY, a national nonprofit dedicated to changing law enforcement policy on high-speed pursuits. “Chasing is not a deterrent to crime. It has never lessened crime.

    “It’s that balance of risk versus reward,” she said. “Was the pursuit necessary? Was there an alternative way?”

    For Priano, the issue is deeply personal.

    Thirteen years ago, a teenager who took her mother’s car without permission plowed into Priano’s minivan while being chased by police in Chico (Butte County). Her 15-year-old daughter, Kristie, who was on the way to a basketball game, was killed in the wreck.

    “I don’t think time heals all wounds,” Priano said. “For me, it’s a matter of days or moments when I find peace. When Kristie was killed, the house became silent. She was the little spark plug of our family.”

    Priano has dedicated the past decade-plus advocating for change on police-chase policies around the country. In 2005, she was a sponsor of Kristie’s Law, a state Senate bill that would have required all law enforcement officers in the state to chase after violent felons only. The bill didn’t pass — meaning each California jurisdiction still comes up with its own rules.

    In San Francisco, police regulations say not to engage in high-speed pursuits of criminals they deem non-violent. The Police Department’s policy on pursuing fleeing violators says “when the risk appears to be unreasonable, or when specifically prohibited by this order, the supervisor shall immediately order the emergency response or pursuit terminated.”

    SFPD officers gather evidence at the scene of a pursuit crash

    SF Crash Scene

    And indeed, in three recent cases where civilians were hit, San Francisco police determined the suspects posed imminent threats to the public and never called off the chases.

    Just last Tuesday night, a man fleeing officers in a BMW ran over a 19-year-old man in a crosswalk at Eighth and Mission streets, setting off an intense chase through the city and over the Bay Bridge before losing his pursuers. The victim was seriously injured and the fugitive is still on the loose.

    “The suspect made a turn and immediately ran over the person,” San Francisco police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said, explaining the police action. “The pursuit had not even begun. Clearly the suspect who chose to evade police was a violent felon.”

    Esparza said when the city’s officers engage in a such high-speed pursuits, they have to evaluate the chase “on a continuous basis.”

  • Broadcast on FOX 43

  • Esther Seoanes on AirTalk

    Esther Seoanes, PursuitSAFETY’s executive director, shared her expertise about the dangers of vehicular police pursuit as a guest on AirTalk.

    Click on Esther’s picture to listen to the 17-minute show. She comes on at about the 10:20-minute mark.
    Esther Seoanes

    First Thomas Frank, reporter at USA Today, speaks about his national analysis on police chases. Then Travis Yates, commander with the Tulsa (OK) Police Department and director of SAFETAC training for law enforcement, discusses the need to debate this issue.

    Esther stated, “Overall technology is good, however, I think that officer training needs to be at the forefront. Officer education and training have to be number one. Also, the change to restrictive pursuit policies, so officers don’t have to pursue for nonviolent, non-felony crimes is important. That’s very important.”

    She talked about how research proves that most suspects can be apprehended without pursuit. She listed several ways to keep the public safe. They included: Many suspects are arrested because of good detective work, rather than a chase. Police officers have other options. They can capture suspects by using:

    1. unmarked cars to follow offenders and apprehend them when they are no longer in the vehicle, i.e., when it’s safer for the officer and the public
    2. two-way radios and interagency communication, and
    3. variations of “auto trap” to catch drivers in stolen cars.

    Travis Yates stated that Esther “is onto something being done in other countries.” He said law enforcement in Canada, for example, use unmarked vehicles to follow suspects inconspicuously, and they pursue for only violent crimes.

Our four top media spokespersons:

Ret. Captain Tom Gleason
Advisory Board Member
Tallahassee, Florida
Cell: (850) 251-9983
Email: honorpoliceofficers@gmail.com

Mark Priano
Board Member
Formerly resided in Indiana and Chicago; lives in Chico, California
Cell: (530) 513-1340

Esther Seoanes
Executive Director
Austin, Texas
Cell: (512) 351-0289
Email: esther@pursuitsafety.org
About Esther Seoanes
Bilingual: English & Spanish

Lucas Aragon
Media Representative
Los Angeles, California
Cell: (323) 630-1525