LAPD Pursuits a ‘Moral Dilemma' for Policy Board

The Commissioners who set rules for the Los Angeles Police Department said they were rethinking policies for car chases -- after data showed the number of pursuits have been increasing and many end in crashes that cause injuries

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The oversight board that sets policy for Los Angeles Police Department officers considered new data Tuesday that showed the number of car chases has increased in recent years, and that more than 1,000 people had been injured as a result of collisions during pursuits since 2018.

"I guess what we're struggling with is where do we draw the line?" Board of Police Commissioners President William J. Briggs, II asked about which types of pursuits should be allowed or disallowed in order to try to reduce the danger to officers and the public.

"A number of third parties were injured or killed, and it's raised the specter that pursuing suspects may not be the best avenue," he said.

Internal LAPD data cataloging more than 4,000 chases between 2018 and last month show that approximately one-quarter ended with an injury crash, and of those injured, nearly half were innocent motorists or pedestrians.

Forty-four percent of the chases began because of a report or observation of a stolen car.

"So that's like the moral dilemma for me. It's like, Do we really need to pursue stolen vehicles if it's gonna lead to some tragedy?'" asked Commissioner Maria Lou Calanche.

"I do know that there are other jurisdictions that do prohibit police chases for grand theft auto," said Commissioner Rasha Gerges Shields.

Police Chief Michel Moore said he believed that officers must continue to find stolen cars and arrest thieves, especially because so many people in LA are dependent on their cars for their livelihoods or commuting.

"Deterrence has to be -- that there is also accountability," he said. "That there's consequences for individuals engaged in this."

"This is one of the most dangerous activities that we engage in," Moore said of pursuits, and added, "I am encouraged that auto theft is down 10% this year."

Deputy Chief Don Graham helped sort the pursuit data and told the NBC4 I-Team that the number of injuries caused by chases have begun to decline.

"It's within around 30-40%, where there's an injury as the result of a pursuit, and so -- it's higher than anybody is comfortable with."

Graham said the most dangerous chases tended to be the shortest -- those that ended in fewer than 5 minutes.

The Commissioners asked for even more research about the potential effects on stolen cars in a handful of cities that have disallowed pursuits, the correlation between stolen cars and hit and runs, and whether new technology could help avoid the need for some chases altogether.

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