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Kansas City halts police chases after second fatality this year

Mindful of public safety, many law enforcement agencies develop strict policies for police pursuits. Some police departments feel it is worth letting a non-violent criminal get away rather than risk a citizen's injury or death in a car accident. Between 2007 and last year, Kansas City, Kansas, police conducted more than 2,600 police pursuits that caused four deaths.

Two fatal police chases have occurred in Kansas City in 2014. Two months ago, a 28-year-old male driver struck a car during a getaway and killed a 62-year-old woman. This month, a little girl died less than a minute after police started to chase a man, initially pulled over for a seat belt offense.

Police reports said, during a routine traffic stop, an officer felt a Chevrolet Impala driver was involved in "suspicious activity." Authorities didn't make it clear what that activity was. The driver fought briefly with the officer and sped off, after the patrolman asked the 27-year-old Kansas City man to hand over his license.

The officer simultaneously set off after the suspect and called for permission to chase the driver. Seconds after the pursuit was given the go-ahead, the fleeing Impala struck a van carrying four members of the same family. A Welborn Elementary School second-grader was killed; her mother, age 35, and two brothers were hospitalized with injuries.

Police arrested and jailed the suspect, pending charges. In the meantime, the Kansas City police chief put a halt to all chases not involving felony suspects. The order will remain in effect as the police department reviews its pursuit policy.

Some liability claims over police pursuit accidents focus on the driver who directly causes an injury or fatality. Law enforcers, as part of a government, are largely immune from liability when officers are performing their duties properly. According to policechiefmagazine.org, an exception may be when an officer is found guilty of "reckless disregard."

Source: The Wichita Eagle, "KCK police to study chase policy after fatal crash" Tony Rizzo, The Kansas City Star, Apr. 10, 2014

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