CHESTER, S.C. --
George Caldwell still vividly remembers seeing a horrific accident during a police chase, even though it happened in 1996.
"The car did this, wrecked, hit a car, almost killed a lady, and hit a house way up there," he said, pointing to the railroad tracks on Lancaster Street near downtown Chester. "It?s not worth it."
New Chester Police Chief Andre Williams doesn't think so either. He took over the force this summer and is changing the chase policy for Chester police to one that mirrors many larger cities.
"If you chase someone, you must know what you're chasing them for," Williams said. "My biggest concern is the citizens first."
Just last week, a Chester officer went to the hospital after a chase that started right in downtown Chester.
A driver sped away from a traffic checkpoint after being told to pull over and wait for an officer. The driver led police on a chase, then stopped suddenly in the road causing a rear-end collision.
The suspect had a minor traffic violation, and police found a small amount of marijuana in his car.
Channel 9 took a look at that patrol car Wednesday afternoon. The officer's airbag deployed and the front end of the car is smashed in.
The new chase policy directs officers to begin a car chase only when there's a felony charge such as murder, bank robbery, armed robbery, assault and in some drug cases.
Williams said some chases will still be decided case by case, and the supervisor of a shift will be involved in the decision.
Williams told Channel 9 the chase last week did not lead him to change the policy, as he had planned to do that upon taking the job as chief in Chester.
Residents who work, eat and shop in downtown Chester said the new policy is a good idea.
"The police have to put the safety of the community first," said Sharon Roof. "You come through town or through a neighborhood or something, and somebody's going to get killed."
Williams met with several officers Wednesday to talk about the changes and draw up the new policy.
Channel 9 asked Williams if cutting down on vehicle pursuits might allow more criminals to get away with crimes.
Williams said he expects some to ask that question, but doesn't think it will lead to fewer arrests.
Chester police changing chase policy to keep people safe
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