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IMPD less likely to pursue; more likely to stop chases after tightening policy in 2020

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Posted at 6:55 PM, Aug 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-09 23:23:34-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis police are more likely to stop chasing suspects since it adopted one of the most restrictive pursuit policies in the state three years ago

"The number one thing we have to remember is public safety and officer safety," Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Chris Bailey said. "They're all inherently dangerous, but we have to do our best to minimize the risks associated with emergency driving and vehicle pursuits."

In 2020, IMPD stopped chasing suspects when their only crime was a traffic offense or just because they refused to stop. This year, the department added that officers will no longer chase suspects in stolen vehicles.

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IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey

When IMPD officers chase, suspects must be connected to dangerous violent crimes or felonies.

The policy is having an effect. Since 2020, IMPD data shows officers have initiated fewer chases and are more likely to stop a chase after a pursuit begins.

"We have a responsibility to apprehend criminals," Bailey said. "But we also have to weigh the government's interest in making that seizure or arrest with with, what can be tragic outcomes."

The decision to call off a chase often goes against an officer's instincts, Bailey said.

"Officers aren't always happy with some of the changes we make," Bailey said. "But at the end of the day, it's to protect our community and it is to protect our officers. The last thing I want to tell an officer's family is that they died in the line of duty chasing somebody."

The dangers are very real.

Last fall, a fleeing suspect drove the wrong way on I-465 and crashed into a car carrying a father and three children. William Tetmeyer, 40, and his daughter Georgia, 12, died. So did suspect Cody Lemasters, 35, who was wanted for drug dealing and violating parole.

From 2010 to 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 101 people died in Indiana in crashes related to police pursuits.

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ILEA Director Tim Horty

Tim Horty, director of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, said police across the state have been reevaluating pursuit policies after the state set new minimum standards this year.

“Pursuits are dangerous, just by its very nature," Horty said. "I mean, two cars, barreling down the street at high speeds. It's always a difficult situation."

Under the new minimum standard, police in every Indiana community have to consider a host of factors when they pursue suspects, including time of day, traffic density and the risk to the public if the suspect is not arrested immediately.

“The guiding principle, again, is to understand that when the danger to the public outweighs the officers need to apprehend an individual, then the pursuit either has to terminate, or the officer shouldn't start the pursuit in the first place," Horty said.