To chase or let go? Looking into IMPD’s pursuit policy

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Police pursuit policy helps IMPD supervisors determine when to chase criminals and when to let them go.

During Monday's chase, Major Richard Riddle says supervisors constantly had to reevaluate whether the potential risks of continuing the pursuit outweighed the benefits of catching 33-year-old Jeffrey Tyson. Tyson was later shot and killed after a 25-minute chase through the city.

Tyson sped away from police after they pulled him over at the Marathon gas station on 71st and Georgetown.

IMPD officials say they stopped Tyson because the car he was driving matched the model, make and license plate number of the one used in a recent armed robbery. He refused to comply with police orders to get out of the car.

When they shot pepper balls at him to try to force him out, a passenger jumped out and Tyson fled.

At that time, Riddle says a supervisor was trying to determine whether to keep chasing him.

"Inherently, pursuits are dangerous and we know that," said Riddle.

Then, Tyson made a U-turn and fired out the window of his car at officers, while making a break for I-465. He hit one officer in the stomach. That's when Riddle says the supervisor decided Tyson's risk to the community at-large was too great not to pursue him.

“Not only do we believe we have a felon that’s fleeing from us initially, we then have an individual who then commits attempted murder against a police officer, which is clearly a felony in front of our officers,” said Riddle. “And that decision was used to allow that pursuit to continue.

Riddle says the supervisor was constantly reevaluating whether to continue the chase, including when Tyson briefly drove the wrong way on Madison Avenue. Listening to the dispatch recordings, you hear that was only one of many dangerous situations created for officers and civilians. It had the potential, he says to turn into a deadly situation.

“We have had the unfortunate instance where we've had innocent third parties, severely injured and killed after a pursuit,” said Riddle. “I mean we saw that on the south side last year.”

Riddle says the supervisor, who was actively involved as a driver during the chase, was working to prevent a similar accident.

“We have a supervisor that's directly involved in this pursuit, giving clear updates and telling people, ‘Hey back off, back away, slow down,’” said Riddle.

Despite hitting stop sticks, Tyson was able to lead officers from 71st and Georgetown, around 465, on several state routes and major roads, back on to 465, through the southern part of downtown and more major roads before circling several side streets and stopping at Newton and Rural.

At many points, the supervisor was using IMPD police pursuit criteria to determine whether the chase should continue.

“We look at how many people are in the vehicle are, what the road conditions are, what the conditions with the weather are,” said Riddle. “Is it nighttime? Is it daytime? Are we in a high residential area with lots of kids or are we on an interstate where there isn’t much traffic and cars can navigate freely in and out of lanes?”

Riddle says current policy allows them to pursue people they believe are felons, such as Tyson, as long as conditions are right. But he says the current review is needed to make sure their policy minimizes harm to all people along the way.

“That's what we're really trying to prevent, to find a good balance between safety and safely taking people into custody after a pursuit,” said Riddle.

Riddle says the team working on the policy review will present recommendations to Chief Troy Riggs in the next couple months. That recommendation could include changes or keeping their policy as is.

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