When should officers give up a chase?All drivers know that when the lights and sirens of a squad car are turned on, it means they need to pull over.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
All drivers know that when the lights and sirens of a squad car are turned on, it means they need to pull over.
However, not all drivers abide by the rules and may end up being chased by either city police officers or county deputies – or sometimes, both.
Although the Alexandria Police Department (APD) and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) have a policy in place for pursuits, each case is different and officers often need to make quick decisions.
The policies are in place and used as guidelines for what happens when a driver fails to stop.
A rule of thumb, according to Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels, is that all chases are dangerous, whether they last one block or 30 miles. There are usually too many unknowns during a pursuit and therefore, many are terminated before the suspect is caught.
“Officers will not get in trouble for ceasing a chase,” said Wyffels.
Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said if a deputy can get a license plate number and a good view of the driver, they will most often terminate the pursuit.
However, if deputies suspect that the driver is a danger to the public, they will continue with a chase until the driver is stopped.
“We have more than one way to terminate a pursuit,” said Wolbersen.
Both Wyffels and Wolbersen said officers and deputies are both trained in how to use stop sticks.
The stop sticks, however, are not always successful because only one tire may be blown out and the suspect will continue driving.
Another method of stopping a driver is the Pursuit Intervention Technique or “PIT maneuver,” which deputies and officers are also trained at doing.
Law enforcement officials will try to make contact between their vehicle and the suspect’s vehicle by gently contacting the front of the law enforcement vehicle with the rear of the suspect’s vehicle.
“If you are chasing a drunk driver, you try to find a straight stretch of flat road with gentle ditches [before attempting a PIT maneuver],” said Wolbersen. “If you’re chasing a murder suspect, you may do things differently.”
When using either the stop sticks or the PIT maneuver, Chief Wyffels said he teaches his officers to be “prudent and reasonable” so that no one is hurt.
One misconception the public has about pursuits is that officers and deputies won’t end them no matter what.
“That’s simply not true,” he said. “We do terminate them. There is no sense endangering the public or the driver.”
Both Wolbersen and Wyffels said the best way to terminate a pursuit is to have the suspect give up without any incident.
“It’s really a dumb thing to do,” Wolbersen said of trying to outrun law enforcement officials. “Plus, it is a felony.”
By fleeing from a peace officer, a driver took what could have been a petty misdemeanor and turned it into a felony, he added. And if there are injuries or a death involved, he said that more felony-level charges are added on.
Wyffels said, “If we can do it another way, we don’t chase.”
However, if a chase does ensue, Wolbersen said, “Our goal is to try to end it as quickly as possible because they are dangerous to us, the suspect and the public.”