Nearly Half of LAPD Pursuit Crashes Have Civilian Victims

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Police pursuits increased in Los Angeles over the last five years, and 49% of the crashes from those pursuits involved civilian injuries or deaths, officials told the city's Police Commission.

The report indicated that from 2018 to March 2023, the Los Angeles Police Department initiated 4,203 pursuits, resulting in 1,032 collisions with injury or death. Of those crashes, 496 third-party individuals were injured, nine were killed, and 462 suspects were injured, with five dying.

About 60 officers were injured during chases, with no deaths.

In 2018, the total pursuits numbered 665, with 651 in 2019, 869 in 2020, 990 in 2021 and 971 last year, according to the LAPD report, which was presented at Tuesday's Police Commission meeting.

Current LAPD policy permits officers to initiate a pursuit when there is a suspected felony crime or a misdemeanor such as a DUI or a reckless driving situation that was not caused by the perception of the police, according to Deputy Chief Donald Graham of the department's Transit Services Bureau.

Graham said the top three reasons for initiating a pursuit were grand theft auto, DUI and reckless driving. He also cited a rise in vehicle thefts for the increase in pursuits.

Commission President William Briggs said the LAPD saw "several devastating injuries as a result of police pursuits" this year alone.

"It's raised the specter that pursuing suspects may not be the best avenue under these circumstances, unless of course, the pursuit was someone who was wanted for robbery or some assault with a deadly weapon," Briggs said. "I guess what we're struggling with is where do we draw the line?"

He asked how the department can help officers engage in "critical analysis to mitigate or minimize" citizens from being injured.

Graham reiterated that the LAPD has made changes to its policy and will continue to enhance training with the aim of reducing traffic collisions.

Graham said the department is looking at having officers announce their own speeds and speeds of suspects in the middle of pursuits, which would allow watch commanders or sergeants overseeing the pursuit to ultimately decide whether to continue the pursuit or terminate it.

The department is evaluating two possible devices to reduce the number of collisions. The first is a heavy-duty nylon rope that would be deployed and entwine the axle of a vehicle and effectively slow it down. The second would launch a GPS device to track the suspect.

The report highlighted that the average speed during an LAPD pursuit reached 46 mph. The average duration of an LAPD pursuit lasted approximately 5.34 minutes; 72% of pursuits were less than five minutes, and 76% of pursuits resulting in traffic collisions were less than five minutes.

Craig Valenzuela of the LAPD's Traffic Group told commissioners that 81% of pursuits with the "most catastrophic outcomes, severe injury or death lasted less than three minutes."

The average distance covered by an LAPD pursuit was about 4.71 miles, with 53% of pursuits covering less than two miles. Approximately 54% of pursuits resulting in traffic collisions occurred when pursuits were less than two miles.

LAPD Air Support assisted 1,575 times, or 38%, before, during or as a pursuit ended.

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