A police car chase through the streets of L.A. might be pretty enthralling when you’re watching a live stream from the comfort of your home, but if you happen to be there in person when one goes down, it’s a whole different story. More innocent bystanders are being injured in these car chases than ever before, which is raising questions of when and how police should conduct the chases, if at all.
In the last year, 78 bystanders were hurt in LAPD car chases, the largest number ever recorded, the L.A. Times reports. That is four times higher than the rate of bystander injuries statewide. And that number doesn’t even capture any additional people who might have been hurt in incidents that the police don’t formally designate as car chases.
In Los Angeles, the justifications for cops to pursue a suspect and start a car chase are more expansive than you’ll find in other cities, even other cities within California. They can include everything from the car being stolen (the most common crime resulting in a chase, overall) to things like reckless driving or suspicion that the driver is intoxicated. The trouble with that is, the data suggests that motorists who are already impaired are the ones most likely to cause a crash due to speeding or erratic driving when they attempt to flee.
The LAPD argues that it’s unfair to compare Los Angeles to other cities on this because there are just more freeways, higher speeds and more traffic in general than in other cities. They also point out that the majority of the injuries to bystanders, while regrettable, are pretty minor and fatalities are rare.
Right now, the police department’s policy on car chases is under review, so it’s possible the rules—and, perhaps your future local news viewing habits—will change.
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