Police draft new rules for pursuits Strict guidelines drawn to prevent officer mistakes

June 15, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

County police have drawn up new pursuit guidelines to prevent fiascoes such as the one last July, in which officers threw flares and fire extinguishers from bridge overpasses during a high-speed chase to slow a fleeing suspect.

The guidelines do not allow officers to pursue suspects in so-called minor cases. Pursuit is allowed in cases of suspected drunken driving, when a weapon has been used or in a crime resulting in serious injury or death.

"The policy narrows down the amount of discretion an officer has during the pursuit," said Maj. A. Lee Apperson, who heads the Bureau of Patrol. "The accountability of the supervisors is much, much greater."

The department also was influenced to update the policy by fatal accidents involving bystanders in other jurisdictions, he said.

"The courts are leaning more and more to holding the departments responsible for the suspect's actions," Apperson said.

Field supervisors will be held more accountable for patrol officers who become involved in high-speed pursuits, under the new policy, which went into effect at the beginning of June.

Although no one was killed during the July pursuit of Edward Thomas Crenshaw, officers threw flares and fire extinguishers from bridge overpasses at the suspect's truck. The ranking officer on the scene, a captain, was fined $1,000 for violating department policy. A sergeant charged with failing to supervise his officers in the incident faces a hearing next month.

Unlike the old policy, the new guidelines have pulled together four department sections that would be responsible for handling different aspects of the pursuit.

It spells out exactly when a patrol officer may initiate a pursuit and what his responsibilities are. The old policy did not specifically require officers to consider alternatives to pursuing the suspect, such as air surveillance, following the suspect without going over the speed limit, or letting suspects go and trying to identify them through follow-up investigations.

Police communications operators will be required to notify a field supervisor, who will be responsible for coordinating all of

ficers and all aspects of the chase.

The new policy also requires a field supervisor to prepare a report detailing the chase for administrative review, Apperson said, a responsibility not included in the previous guidelines.

l,.5l Central Records is responsible for processing and filing the report, with a copy going to the commander of the Management Planning Section -- who will make periodic reviews of pursuits and report to Chief Robert Russell.

Apperson said department officials reviewed the pursuit policy of several other metropolitan departments before rewriting Anne Arundel's.

"We used the best aspects of those policies and put them in ours," he said.

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