DALLAS (AP) — A new police department policy will instruct Dallas officers not to chase multiple suspects on foot on their own, continue chases if they lose their weapon or split up to go after more than one suspect.
The policy, expected to go into effect early next year, comes in response to a July shooting in which an officer killed the suspect he was chasing, the Dallas Morning News reported (http://dallasne.ws/W1Nbjd ). The death of 31-year-old James Harper led to hundreds of South Dallas residents gathering soon afterward in anger and questions about whether the shooting could have been avoided.
Police say the officer who shot Harper had chased him over three fences and into a horse corral. He thought Harper was reaching into his pocket for a weapon — which he wasn't.
Chief David Brown tells the newspaper that he has since asked different officers how they would handle a foot chase with three officers and four suspects and gotten different answers.
"All of the veterans said, 'We're going to catch one. He's going to tell us where the other three are,'" Brown said. Rookie officers said, "We're going to chase all of them."
Police have been conducting training sessions on how to properly conduct foot pursuits for at least five years.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police has issued a model set of guidelines for departments on foot pursuits. Only 15 percent of 500 agencies said they had guidelines in a recent survey.
One agency responded to the survey: "This is not rocket science. You just run after them."
That can put lives in danger, experts warned.
"Most police agencies aren't practicing safer tactics when it comes to foot pursuits," said Robert Kaminski, an associate criminal justice professor at the University of South Carolina.
Dave Smith, a former Tucson police officer who now teaches courses on street survival, talked about the death of another Tucson officer gunned down in 2003 by a hit-and-run suspect. He warns against the "greyhound effect" of chasing after a suspect without thinking about the dangers.
"He just ran right into the guy's gun," Smith said. "Had he run wide around that corner, he would have at least had a chance to engage."
But Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas Police Association, a city police union, said he was worried guidelines were unreasonable and could be used to discipline officers, which police officials denied.
"This is something you can't put in a box, and they're trying to put it in a box," he said. "It's not going to work."
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com