FACTS AND MYTHS

Fact
It’s not about numbers. It’s about people — real people.

Myths
The tragedy of pursuit repeats itself resulting in an infinite number of deaths and injuries to innocent people and police officers.

  • Myth #1: If officers don’t chase, more drivers will flee.

    Research proves this statement is false. Officers catch most criminals by good detective work, not by a chance encounter and not by a chase. People who flee are going to flee no matter what the policy. People who will pull over appropriately today will do so tomorrow no matter what the policy.

    Research to support our stance:

    1. Review of Orlando. FL, PD’s Restrictive Pursuit Policy 
    2. Phoenix Police Department Policy Change
    3. Press release from the LAPD about their Policy Review
    4. Department of Justice Study

    Officers have eventually caught fleeing drivers even after they discontinued the pursuit. “Abandoning the pursuit does not mean the officer stops apprehension efforts; rather, the officer initiates other resources to bring about the apprehension.” — Lt. John Specht, Hillsboro, Oregon, PD.

  • Myth #2: There’s a dead body in the trunk.

    Research proves this myth is mostly false. We hear it so often as if it’s an everyday occurrence. It is not. “Research shows the first two myths are not true,” says Dr. Geoffrey Alpert, who is the author of Police Pursuits: What We Know and Policing: Continuity and Change. Of note, Policing: Continuity and Change has a comprehensive section on pursuits and a copy of the Orlando, Florida, pursuit policy and statistics.

  • Myth #3: Drivers only run from the police because they’ve committed a violent crime or will commit a violent crime.

    Research debunks this myth, says Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina. “Most are deadbeats making stupid decisions to avoid being caught for not having a license or some offense that would be very minor compared to what happens when they initiate a pursuit.” (Source: USA Today, Jan. 5, 2003)

    Chases are also initiated for stolen cars, shoplifting, and joyriding. Some are young teens who run because they fear their parents will be mad at them if they get a ticket. Other drivers flee because they may not have a driver’s license or have a suspended license, and others don’t have insurance or registration. The rest are low-level offenders who interact with the police on a daily basis. Therefore, officers can catch them when they are not behind the wheel of a car.

    A Department of Justice Study and Dr. Geoffrey Alpert’s book, Police Pursuits: What We Know report that the unknown driver who flees is rarely a murderer, rapist, or pedophile. Only about 10% of the drivers who flee are violent felons, and not all of them fall into one of the three categories mentioned.

  • Myth #4: It’s just an accident.

    Crimes committed with cars are becoming more common. Accidents are not premeditated. Pursuits occur when a person decides to flee and an officer decides to chase. People who flee are self-absorbed; they are not thinking about the safety of others. So, the burden to protect innocent victims, by necessity, falls on the police. “Car accident” is not accurate. The U.S. Department of Transportation uses the term “crash.”

  • Myth #5: If officers don’t chase, someone else might get killed.

    A chase might be the cause of one or more deaths of innocent bystanders. We read about these stories of innocent bystanders killed as a result of pursuit crashes. Ret. Police Chief D.P. Van Blaricom, Bellevue, Washington, says, “The most common terminating event in an urban pursuit is a crash, and that crash will most often occur at an intersection. There is no reason to believe a greater loss would occur from taking less risk.”

Fact Sheet

Pursuit Safety Fact Sheet