A pursuit resulting in a deadly crash is one of a police department's most dreaded scenarios.
Norfolk police had a close call in April when officers pursued a driver on Chesapeake Boulevard in the middle of the day. The driver crashed into another car; the female motorist inside did not suffer serious injuries.
Such incidents trigger an investigation that includes a review of whether the chase was justified and whether officers should receive further training or be reprimanded.
Police policy says that when deciding whether to pursue a fleeing vehicle, officers must balance the seriousness of the situation against hazards to thesafety of citizens and officers.
The number of pursuits in Norfolk has declined to 94 last year from 125 in 2007, police records show. This year, police have pursued suspects 32 times.
" 'Due regard for safety' are the words that training tries to embed in the minds of the recruits," Sgt. Maj. Jeffery Garris said.
Police attribute to the decline to pursuits to their training efforts.
New details on the April 20 chase were laid out in a memo last month from Lori Crouch, the city's public relations manager, to the City Council.
Members of the department's Special Operations Team were in an unmarked SUV when they saw the driver of a Lexus going about 65 mph in a 40 mph zone and called for a patrol car to make a traffic stop.
The driver of the Lexus stopped at a red light at Chesapeake Boulevard and Johnstons Road, and a patrol car pulled up with blue lights flashing. The officers in the SUV also activated blue lights.
The driver ignored commands and sped away as a Special Operations Team officer approached his door, hitting the officer, who was not hurt.
The patrol car pursued but could not keep the Lexus in sight, according to the memo. Another officer saw the Lexus fly by and started chasing, but realized that he could not keep up with the suspect.
The officer slowed down, then saw the Lexus crash into another vehicle, the memo says.
Driver Tyrone Nathaniel Booker, 30, came flying out of the car and landed on the road.
He was hospitalized in critical condition and later charged with felony eluding and felony hit and run and two misdemeanors, reckless driving and driving a vehicle with a revoked license.
In this case and any accident involving a police vehicle, a review is conducted by an accident review board, which includes police and employees from fleet management.
The officers' supervisors must confirm that pursuits complied with policy or write a letter to their superiors with an explanation.
An officer chasing a suspect wanted for a violent felony would probably not be reprimanded, said Officer Chris Amos, a spokesman for the department.
"They're obviously going to take that a lot more seriously and give an officer a little more leeway."
The board has not finished a review of the April 20 crash, he said.
Patrick Wilson, 757-222-3893, [email protected]
Some facts about Norfolk police policy on pursuits:
* Officers are expected to exercise good judgment in emergency operations of their cars and keep in mind factors such as weather, traffic conditions, time of day, knowledge of the area, nearby schools or houses.
* Officers should not engage in a chase if police have the suspect's license plate information or he can be positively identified. However, police can ignore that rule for a violent felon or someone who is an imminent danger to the community.
* Police supervisors must monitor all pursuits and "exercise discretion and sound judgment" in deciding how long to allow them to continue.
Source: Norfolk police policy
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