- Jan 19
MPD Restricts Vehicle Pursuit Policy To Save Lives
A revised policy ensures that officers of the Martinsburg Police Department will no longer engage in vehicle pursuits unless there is reasonable suspicion that the violator has committed a “Violent Forcible Felony” and presents an immediate and life-threatening danger to the public or law enforcement. This is a major revision from the prior policy that allowed the initiation of a vehicle pursuit for any “criminal offense.” The policy change is the result of an internal eight week MPD problem-solving initiative.
“Thousands of innocent motorists, bystanders, and police officers have been killed or seriously injured in police vehicle pursuits. The Martinsburg Police Department values public safety and our revised policy will save lives,” stated Chief Maury Richards. “That begins with what we initiate a pursuit for. Because unless there is a violent felony involved, a vehicle pursuit will not even begin,” Richards added.
The updated policy will be used by police officers and supervisors as a guide to making intelligent and reasonable decisions on whether or not to pursue a fleeing vehicle, avoiding excessive or unjustifiable risks. Additional factors such as weather conditions, the amount of vehicle or pedestrian traffic, and alternative means of apprehension will also be carefully evaluated before deciding to begin or to continue a pursuit.
MPD’s newly updated policy calls for officers and supervisors to perform a “balancing test” both before initiating and while continuing a pursuit. Officers deciding to engage in a vehicle pursuit must balance the need to stop a suspect against the potential threat to everyone involved or affected by the pursuit. MPD policy mandates: “Officers deciding to engage in a pursuit must balance the need to stop a suspect against the potential threat to everyone involved or affected by the pursuit. It must be so important to apprehend the suspect that officers are justified in placing an innocent third party at risk of losing their life and/or property.”
As with the previous policy, pursuing officers and police shift supervisors monitor the situation closely and continuously evaluate the necessity of immediate apprehension against the risk to officer and public safety.
Highlighting the importance of making the changes now, Chief Richards said, “The Martinsburg Police Department is proactive. We address issues before they become problems. We weren’t going to just wait around for the inevitable tragic accident or death before we made our vehicle pursuit policy safer.”
The Martinsburg City Council reviewed and approved the Martinsburg Police Department’s newly revised vehicle pursuit policy on Thursday, January 14, 2016.