In 1986, Alpert and Andersonpublished an article,
The Most Deadly Force: Police Pursuits
, which sought to sharpen theocus o law enorcement andacademic observers on theinherent risks and potentialdangers o police pursuits. Duringthe same timerame, a series o studies was published, ollowingthe CHP research model butusing improved methodology and sampling techniques (Alpertand Fridell 1992; Alpert, Kenney,Dunham, and Smith 2000).The ndings rom these second-generation studies highlightedthe dangerous nature o pursuitsand the risks posed to bothpolice and citizens. The empiricalresearch debunked two commonmyths: most feeing suspects aredangerous violent elons; and i the police don’t chase suspects,all suspects will continue to fee,thereby greatly endangering publicsaety. What emerged rom theresearch ndings was the actthat most suspects who fee thepolice were young males who hadcommitted minor oenses and who had made very bad decisionsto fee. Additionally, the researchsupported the nding that i the police were to restrict theirpursuit policies and not chase alloenders, no wholesale feeing was likely to occur by thosesignaled to stop by the police(Alpert, Dunham, and Stroshine2006).By the late 1990s, thecollective awareness o society had been opened to thedangers o pursuit driving and,concomitantly, police departmentsbegan to modiy their policiesand to restructure their trainingto address the awareness.Lawsuits also played a majorpart in modiying police policiesand practices where vehicularpursuits were at issue. A majorlitigation trend evolved suchthat whenever a person, whethersuspect or innocent third party, was injured by actions arisingrom a police pursuit, suit wasalmost certain to ollow. And inmany instances the ling involvedsome allegation o violation o aederally secured right that theplainti sought to redress underSection 1983.
While countlesscivil rights suits were led, with varying degrees o plainti creativity, courts throughout thecountry responded to them inan overall inconsistent ashion,applying dierent standards,interpreting even agreed-upon standards dierently, andhanding down widely variedrulings on highly similar actualpatterns. By the early 2000s,the only reasonably sure bet incivil rights based pursuit actionsappeared to be that i a policeocer used a physical “meansintentionally applied”
to stop afeeing suspect, such as rammingor a Pursuit ImmobilizationTechnique (PIT) maneuver,
theederal courts would evaluatethe ocer’s action as involvinga “seizure” or purposes o a Fourth Amendment claim.The courts typically wordedtheir analyses in the context o
Tennessee v Garner
Graham v Connor
With the advent o the 1990s, through its decisionsin
Brower v County of Inyo
County of Sacramento
the U.S. Supreme Court provideda barely translucent analysis o the liability parameters o policepursuits under ederal civil rightslaw. The decisions in
did little to provide any type o operational guidance,however, to law enorcementagencies legitimately seeking tobalance a need to apprehendagainst a requirement to protectpublic saety in pursuits. But they did spawn a cottage industry
Title 42 U.S. Code Section 1983is requently reerred to as the FederalCivil Rights Act. Although Section 1983creates no rights in and o itsel, it doesprovide a remedy or violations securedby the U.S. Constitution or statutory provisions.
Brower v County of Inyo
, 489 U.S.593, 597 (1989).
A Pursuit ImmobilizationTechnique (PIT) is a maneuver thatbegins when a pursuing vehicle pullsalongside a feeing vehicle so that eitherront quarter panel o the pursuing vehicle is aligned with the target vehicle’srear quarter panel. The pursuing oceris required to make momentary contact with the target vehicle’s rear quarterpanel, accelerating slightly and steeringinto it very briefy. The eect o theproperly perormed maneuver is thatthe rear wheels o the target vehiclelose traction, causing it to skid to astop so that the pursuing ocer or aback-up vehicle is able to then block the target’s escape and apprehend thesuspect. Unortunately, the process doesnot always work as planned. The PIT isdesigned to work saely at speeds slowerthan 40 MPH and in sae locations.
471 U.S. 1 (1985).
490 U.S. 386, 388 (1988).
489 U.S. 593 (1989).
523 U.S. 833 (1998).