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The Oklahoma City Police Department is adopting a more restrictive pursuit policy that officials say will increase public safety, per the Oklahoma Watch.
Effective June 7, Oklahoma City police may not exceed the posted speed limit by 15 miles per hour on city streets and 25 miles per hour on highways when responding to a code 3 incident, which the department defines as an emergency situation where an officer activates their emergency lights and an audible siren.
“The decision to exceed the Code 3 speed restrictions set forth in this directive will require strong justification, such as a call or incident that may involve imminent loss of life or officer distress,” the updated policy reads.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol have needed reform for years.
Per the Tulsa World, despite a policy requiring troopers to weigh if the benefits of apprehension are worth a chase’s risks, in a five-year span, 15 OHP pursuits have killed 18 people — and at least eight of those killed weren’t the eluding drivers. Five were uninvolved motorists, at least two were passengers in fleeing vehicles, and one was an OHP lieutenant on foot struck by another trooper’s cruiser at high speed.
The Tulsa World’s ongoing investigation of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol uncovered reckless trooper actions, shoddy record-keeping, failure to address “alarming” concerns expressed by commanders, and refusal to review a fatal chase that OHP undertook in wintry conditions even though the stolen car’s location was being tracked electronically.
New policy looks to protect Oklahoma City from reckless police.
According to Oklahoma Watch, the policy directs officers to “self-terminate” pursuits involving property offenses, traffic violations, simple assault and felony eluding in the following circumstances:
- When entering an active school zone;
- When entering an active construction zone with workers present;
- When there are road conditions due to weather, poor repair or surface type.
- When pedestrian traffic is present in the area;
- When the identity of the violator is known;
- When officers know of and have access to, or can later access, information from a GPS tracking device on the suspect or the vehicle;
- When the suspect’s driving behavior is such that it endangers the public or officers, including excessive speeds, disregard for traffic lights, driving into oncoming traffic or driving off-road.
The continued pursuit of a person suspected of driving under the influence or committing a violent or sexual offense will require “strong justification” if they are driving recklessly. Officers will also be encouraged to halt the pursuit if the suspect can be located using a GPS device.
There were a record 383 police chases in Oklahoma City in 2020, according to data collected by The Oklahoman.
Several major cities, including Cincinnati, Atlanta and Chicago, have implemented policies limiting police chases over the past year. Bystanders and vehicle passengers are often victims of police pursuits, researchers have found.