INDIANAPOLIS — After more than six years of debate, IMPD quietly adopted a new vehicle pursuit policy that went into effect August 1st.
The General Order restricts the type of crimes or infractions IMPD officers can cite as their justification to pursue a fleeing driver.
“If you look at our old policy, we had probably one of the least restrictive police pursuit policies in the country. We pretty much had the authority to chase people for any reason, including just running a stop sign,” said IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey. “We think we have a policy that strikes a balance between the need to apprehend and hold accountable people that commit criminal acts and, on the other side of that, keep our community safe.”
GO 4.12, signed by Chief Randal Taylor, comes at a time when Metro PD has agreed to multiple changes and oversights to its rule-making and disciplinary processes in order to provide transparency after protesters filled the streets of Indianapolis this summer calling for police and social justice reforms.
“We have to weigh the need to hold people accountable for the crimes they commit,” said Bailey. “We have to make sure that when we do our job that we’re doing it in a safe manner that doesn’t endanger the people we serve and then we have to make sure that the decisions we make don’t cost us our lives as officers.”
Under the new policy, IMPD officers are restricted from initiating pursuits for some minor crimes.
“The new policy completely prohibits the vehicle pursuit when the only charge is an infraction, speeding, running a stop sign, running a red light, those types of things,” said Bailey. “The act of fleeing is not typically the reason you can chase somebody.”
There are the 10 misdemeanor exceptions that the state allows police officers to pursue subjects and make arrests even though the officer didn’t witness the crime: Domestic battery; Battery with injury; Possession of a handgun no license; Hit and run; DUI; Theft; Pointing a firearm; Invasion of privacy; Transporting a destructible device; and, Violation of probation.
Officers may still initiate pursuits of suspected felons.
“Just the open rule that you could chase for any reason has come to an end here at IMPD,” said Bailey, “and it was the right decision.
“These things are very dangerous. We can control how we drive.
“We can’t control how the other people drive.”
IMPD has begun keeping statistics on how often motorists flee from officers during routine traffic stops, yet Bailey does not predict whether gun seizures and felony arrests from such stops will decrease if drivers take advantage of the department’s no-pursuit restrictions.