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Police Chase Policy Driven by Public Safety

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RALEIGH — Raleigh police say ahigh-speed chase Thursdayon the beltline would never have happened later in the afternoon during rush hour.

They say they would not have chased the suspect on a crowded beltline, because the core of the department's policy is to protect public safety.

Raleigh Policesay their chase policy is based on one question: is the chase more of a danger than letting the suspect go?

Thursday's case met the chase criteria, they say, because the suspect had allegedly shot someone in the commission of a crime.

"Clearly by the suspect having discharged a weapon and committed a violent crime during the robbery, that was an indication that that risk was merited. Even so, we still must constantly, throughout this process, continue to balance those risks," said Raleigh Police Major E.T. Bert.

Officers have to weigh several factors as they ponder whether to give chase. In Raleigh's structure, the on-duty watch commander has the authority to terminate any chase.

The chase strategy is for one car to be the primary chase unit, and for every other unit to act in its support.

TheN.C. Highway Patrolalso supports a cautious balancing act between the danger of the subject and the danger of the chase.

"We cut off an awful lot of chases. You've got to understand that we don't like chasing cars. We do not like doing it. We are in harm's way. The public is in harm's way. The people we are chasing are in harm's way, and we understand that," said Sgt. Jeff Winstead of the N.C. Highway Patrol.

Some drivers on the beltline did not know how to react when they saw the chase bearing down on them.

"Slow down and pull over to the right and get out of the way. Certainly you do not want to get involved or engaged in the middle of a pursuit. The safest thing for the public to do is to pull over to the right and stop or slow down," said Bert.

During Thursday's chase, Raleigh police tried to keep innocent drivers safe by blocking ramps. Passing drivers were lucky that the suspect's empty truck, still running after he ditched it, did not plow into traffic.

The Highway Patrol says staying clear of a high speed chase is not just a matter of courtesy and common sense.

"Obey the law. It's very simple. Upon the approach of the flashing lights and the siren, whether it's a fire truck, ambulance or a police car in response, pull over to the right. The law is clear, concise and simple: pull to the right," said Winstead.

Raleigh police plan to use WRAL's Sky5 video of the chase to do an internal review of how they handled the high-speed situation.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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