Dedicated to Sarah Phillips

Words to Live By

If the Bad Guys Hadn't Run, None of This Would Have Happened...


If I have heard this once I have heard it ten thousand times. While the statement is certainly true, it is far from the whole story. The decision to pursue, or not to pursue, is a complex one and fraught with many pitfalls. When police agencies say that they are “damned if they do—and damned if they don’t”—that is certainly true as well. Research has shown several important facts:

  • 40% of pursuits end in crashes. 20% of pursuits end in personal injury. 1% ends in death. Conclusion: Police pursuit is a high-risk activity with life or death consequences.
  • Less that 17% of suspects flee for an underlying felony. Most suspects flee for no drivers license, no insurance, no registration, DUI, so their parents won’t find out, or like offenses. Conclusion: Your typical fleeing suspect is most probably, young, stupid or drunk-not a hardened criminal.
  • When police departments tighten pursuit policies there is no increase in the number of suspects who flee. Conclusion: It is the same young, stupid, or drunk suspects who flee-no matter what the policy is, rampant crime is not the result of tight policy.
  • When police discontinue or decline to pursue the fleeing suspects generally respond in a short distance by trying to blend in with traffic or by ditching the car and fleeing on foot. Conclusion: When police don’t chase the suspects don’t run for long and when a pursuit becomes dangerous the decision to disengage defuses the situation.

Most of the above facts fly in the face of conventional wisdom and demonstrate that police pursuits and pursuit policy require law enforcement agencies and citizens alike to think “outside the box.” Your life depends on it.
Jim Phillips, 2004