New Study: Police chases take deadly toll on innocent bystanders
Posted: Jul 31, 2015 11:39 AM CST | Updated: Jul 31, 2015 11:43 AM CST
(CBS News) High-speed chases occur nearly every day across the nation, but a new investigation is leading some police departments to rethink their policies, reports CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca.
A June police chase in Indianapolis led to a grandmother being killed when a suspected shoplifter was pursued for miles along a busy road and plowed into her vehicle.
It's just one of thousands of chases a USA Today study found claimed the lives of innocent people.
According to the report, about 30 percent of all police chases end in crashes, often injuring or killing people nearby.
\"Nearly half of people killed in police chases are not the suspects being pursued,\" Tom Frank, who conducted the four month-long investigation, said. \"They are either bystanders or passengers in the car. If half the people who were killed in police shootings were bystanders, there would be an uproar.\"
Records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cited at least 11,500 people killed in police chases from 1979 to 2013. That's an average of 329 people a year. Of those killed, 5,000 were not behind the wheel.
Jon Farris's son Paul was killed Memorial Day weekend 2007.
\"He and his girlfriend, Kate, were on their way home from downtown Boston and riding in a taxi, and that taxi was struck by an offender who was fleeing a Massachusetts state trooper,\" Farris said.
The chase started when the trooper attempted to stop a driver for making an illegal U-turn.
These kinds of pursuits have led some of the nation's 18,000 police departments to review and change their policies.
\"The cities of Milwaukee, Orlando, Dallas and Phoenix have highly-restrictive pursuit policies where they basically only allow a pursuit for a known, violent felon,\" Frank said.
Dallas changed their chase policy in 2006.
\"The most important thing we have to look at is common sense, risk verses reward,\" former Dallas police department deputy chief Craig Miller said. \"When a guy runs from us, what are we hoping to gain by catching him? And what sort of danger does he pose to the public?\"
Many police departments will still pursue drivers who try to evade a stop, no matter what the crime. The officers involved in the pursuit will decide when to deescalate or call off a chase if they think it might endanger others.