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MPD defends pursuit policy despite 2 fatal crashes in last week

Posted at 12:38 PM, Apr 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-25 13:47:55-04

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Police Chief released a statement late Wednesday night defending the department's pursuit policy.

In the one page statement, Chief Alfonso Morales explains why MPD will continue to pursue fleeing vehicles.

"We understand that they are inherently dangerous," Morales said in the statement. "However, in order to make Milwaukee a safer place to live, work and raise a family, Police must apprehend individuals who recklessly disregard the law and place the lives of others in danger by fleeing from police and/or by arbitrarily driving reckless through our city's streets."

The statement comes on the heels of a car crashing into a home over the weekend. The driver of the vehicle was believed to be a drug dealer and died. The home he crashed into caught fire and was destroyed.

Last Thursday, another deadly crash. Police say this vehicle was suspected in a shooting. The driver took off at 65 to 75 mph in the wrong direction of N. 40th Street and was hit by a school bus. No one on the bus was hurt but a passenger in the suspect's car died.

The criminal complaint says the officer involved was planning to stop the chase if the car didn't stop at the intersection. It's something Morales touched on in the heavy burden police have in making a split second decision to pursue a chase or not risk public safety, letting the suspect get away.

"Each pursuit is subject to oversight during the pursuit itself," Morales said. "And if a supervisor or an officer believes the pursuit is too dangerous, the pursuit may be terminated at any time."

It's something the FBI supports in its teachings. According to a 2010 study, the FBI said police "must balance the goals of law enforcement with the public's safety."

Additional data from the study shows an inherent danger in pursuits.

It says one person is killed every day as a result of police pursuits. Also, 42 percent of people killed or injured in these pursuits are innocent third party bystanders.

Additionally, one out of every 100 high speed pursuits results in death.

In finding this data, the FBI interviewed officers and also suspects to learn more about pursuits and find a safer way to approach the situation without letting criminals think they can just run and get away.

The information says if police refrain from chasing or terminating their pursuits, there is no significant increase in the number of suspects who flee.

Also, suspects told the FBI, when a pursuit was terminated, "75 percent reported that they would slow down when they felt safe."

They said, "on average, suspects continued driving dangerously for 90 seconds before slowing."

The study does go on to say decisions on terminating a chase "depends on what they know or have reasonable suspicion to believe that the suspect has done."

This falls in line with what Morales said in his statement about pursuits saying at the officer's discretion, a pursuit can be terminated at any time.