CABELL COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Law enforcement is weighing-in on what protocols are in place for pursuits that help determine: “Is it worth the risk?”
The question comes after a Huntington teenager was killed on Monday, Oct. 23, when a suspect fleeing from police ran a red light and hit a car with four people in it at the 20th Street and 8th Avenue intersection.
13 News spoke with former police officer James Nolan, a professor at West Virginia University, to break down what policies are in place to protect bystanders.
“When you’re in the chase, it’s hard to back off,” he said. “I know this from personal experience. Someone runs from you, and you take pursuit, you want to catch them.”
The decision to proceed or not proceed with the pursuit comes down to someone not involved. They do that by considering a number of factors including what time of day it is, traffic conditions, where the pursuit is headed and what the suspect is wanted for.
“You can get caught up in the heat of the moment. Your focused on that. You got tunnel vision. Your worried on that and you’re not thinking about school getting out,” said Cabell County Sheriff Chuck Zerkle. “That’s why a supervisor not attached has the ability to terminate.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hundreds of people are killed each year in fatal crashes involving police pursuits. According to data from 2009 to 2013, about 21% of those seriously injured are not involved in the pursuit.
Zerkle described pursuits as a “double edged sword” because despite the potential dangers for deputies and bystanders, the same goes for not apprehending dangerous suspects.
“You can’t just not ever chase anybody because [then] everybody figures out and ‘All I have to do is take off, and they ain’t going to chase me,'” he said.
While some practices are the same, Zerkle and Nolan both said policies regarding pursuits can differ from agency to agency.