HOUSTON – Houston Police Chief Troy Finner announced and released a revised vehicle pursuit for police on Thursday.
Finner was joined by members of the HPD command staff at 11:30 a.m.
Just this year, there have been dozens of police chases in the Houston area, some ending in crashes, injuries, or deaths.
On Sept. 7, the mother of a Houston Police Department sergeant was killed when two carjackers crashed into two vehicles at a red light in southwest Houston. The drivers of the two vehicles were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The carjackers were fleeing from police before the fatal crash.
Finner said he called on lawmakers around the nation to increase penalties for people that are fleeing in vehicles, causing danger to the community. He also discussed the policy with lawmakers on the way officers should handle situations like this.
“Those of members in our community who have died in police pursuits, just want to pray for their families,” he said.
During the news conference, the police chief addressed several major points of its new policy for officers.
“The department values life and safety of its officers and the public at large,” Finner said. “This policy is intended to minimize the risk of injuries to officers and the public.”
As required by department policy and state law, Finner said an officer may engage in a vehicle pursuit only if the officer determines in good faith, under the circumstances the need to immediately apprehend the suspect outweighs the risk of harm to the officer or the public in engaging in a pursuit.
“If the risk if injury outweighs the needs to immediately apprehend the suspect, officers and supervisors alike, shall terminate the pursuit,” he said.
From a year today, Finner said the department has been involved in over 1,300 pursuits, which is roughly a 26% increase compared to last year. HPD average is five pursuits a day for an average of a little over six minutes.
“We need to be smarter, still proactive and intentional in fighting crime in our city, we should not pursue every vehicle that flees from us,” Finner said. “We don’t have to give up the search of the suspect when we terminate the pursuit -- that should continue.”
Per the policy, officers and supervisors must evaluate the following totality of circumstances:
- Performance capabilities of the fleeing vehicle and officer’s vehicle.
- Road, lighting and weather conditions.
- Traffic conditions.
- Speed of the fleeing vehicle.
- Effect of speed of the involved vehicles on stopping distance.
- Distance between the primary and secondary units and fleeing vehicle.
- The officer’s reaction time at the current speed.
- The likelihood that any involved vehicle may crash under the current circumstances.
- The nature and severity of injuries to any person from a possible crash under the current circumstances.
- The duration of the motor vehicle pursuit.
Read the full revised policy below:
Finner said the department has added unique training and tactics aimed to stop the pursuit before it begins, emphasizing stopping techniques.
He said tactics will not be discussed publicly because they do not want to give criminal the upper hand.
The department will hold everyone accountable involved and has started training sessions for its officers.
Officers who violate the revised policy, and someone gets hurt or killed, will face stiff discipline, Finner said.
WATCH THE FULL NEWS CONFERENCE BELOW:
Janice Jackson said her husband died as innocent bystander in a police chase roughly two years ago. She said she still feels like she is in a nightmare.
“Its been a trying time for us,” said Jackson.
Jackson has some relief knowing HPD revised its vehicle pursuit policy.
“It’s a very good thing that they’re doing this. but the policy should have been changed years ago,” said Jackson.
Jackson said her husband was walking on the sidewalk in Southeast Houston when an officer hit him with his cruiser after losing control while chasing a carjacking suspect.
Carjacking is a crime that could still warrant a pursuit, but the policy states officers must evaluate the risk of injury when chasing a suspect.
“You can’t bring the loved ones back,” said Jackson.
Jackson hopes the revised policy keeps other families from living her nightmare.