Making the call – DOJ: ‘Minnesota rates among the lowest in police pursuit fatalities’
Published 8:09 am Thursday, June 28, 2018
An incident from earlier this month in which a 27-year-old driver injured three children in a Minneapolis neighborhood while fleeing the police has caused some to question state laws regarding police chases.
Under Minnesota law, law enforcement agencies are required to create their own guidelines on pursuing suspects, but policy is not dictated.
According to a report released last year by the U.S. Department of Justice, Minnesota ranks among the lowest in police chase fatalities.
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The report states that eight people died during the 1,751 reported chases in 2016 in Minnesota.
Mower County has already seen several high speed pursuits that ended in arrests this year. While catching those responsible is a priority, safety is the number one concern for local law enforcement in any pursuit.
“The officer needs to notify the supervisor immediately if they’re in a high speed pursuit,” said Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger. “The supervisor at anytime can call off the pursuit if the supervisor feels it’s too dangerous, if the speeds are getting too high.”
Krueger and Mower County Chief Deputy Mark May stated that varying factors play a role in determining whether or not to break off a pursuit.
“It depends on what they’re being pursued for,” May said. “If it’s a traffic stop in a residential area, we may pursue them for a while, but then we may back off due to the safety of the surrounding citizens and the safety of the office. Depending on the seriousness of the crime, we may pursue them further and initiate other agencies for assistance and apprehend that person.”
“(Location) affects it greatly,” Krueger said. “You’ve got a large population in an area and some main thoroughfares that people drive on, but there are many parks in our community, which means there are pedestrians, bicyclists and people all over the place. It also depends on what time of day, whether it’s 5 p.m. when work is getting done and there’s traffic all over or if there are kids out playing during the day or if it’s in the middle of the night.”
Another factor considered is whether or not the vehicle has passengers, particularly children or anyone that does not want to be involved.
Krueger and May said policy is in place that allows pursuing officers to break off if they can positively identify the driver of the vehicle they’re chasing.
“There’s many times when an officer will end the pursuit if they know and can ID the driver,” Krueger said. “We’ve got our camera system and that’s another reason that it can be stopped and we can pursue formal complaint charges at a later time.”
On rural roads, deputies try to keep in contact with other agencies and end chases via the use of stop sticks, according to May.
“We’re fortunate in our county because it’s platted like a grid of intersecting roads,” he said. “When I was out on patrol, we’d say, ‘You can’t outrun Motorola.’ We can always radio for assistance if other agencies are working. We rely on the small departments and other deputies to intercept them and set up stop sticks to deflate the tires and end it that way.”
May also added that all Minnesota counties use Lexipol, a universal policy that provides uniformity in law enforcement policy.
“We’re trying to keep (the policies) all similar to other counties and jurisdictions,” he said. “We can flex it a little bit on a case-by-case basis, but this policy helps keep us uniform with other counties.”
“The main thing is safety,” Krueger said. “We want to make sure the outcome is a safe one and do not want to jeopardize anyone.”