New Jersey Police Vehicular Pursuit Policy

June 6, 2008 11:25:54 AM PDT
The New Jersey State Police policy on chasing suspects is listed below.

PURPOSE OF POLICY

The primary purpose of this policy is to secure a balance between the protection of the lives and safety of the public and police officers, and law enforcement's duty to enforce the law and apprehend violators. Since there are numerous situations which arise in law enforcement that are unique, it is impossible for this policy or any standard operating procedure to anticipate all possible circumstances. Therefore, this policy is intended to guide a police officer's discretion in matters of vehicular pursuit.

This policy has been formulated to provide minimum statewide requirements to direct law enforcement activities in this very critical area of police practice. However, police department size, population density and other characteristics vary among communities in this state. Therefore, county and local law enforcement agencies are expected to develop individual standard operating procedures which account for departmental variations, yet are consistent with this policy.

Deciding whether to pursue a motor vehicle is among the most critical decisions made by law enforcement officers. It is a decision which must be made quickly and under difficult, often unpredictable circumstances. In recognition of the potential risk to public safety created by vehicular pursuits, no officer or supervisor shall be criticized or disciplined for a decision not to engage in a vehicular pursuit or to terminate an ongoing vehicular pursuit based on the risk involved, even in circumstances where this policy would permit the commencement or continuation of the pursuit. Likewise, police officers who conduct pursuits consistent with this policy will be strongly supported by the law enforcement community in any subsequent review of such actions.

DEFINITIONS

A. Authorized Tire Deflation Device: A device designed and intended to produce a controlled deflation of one or more tires of a pursued vehicle, and capable of operation consistent with criteria established in this policy.

B. Boxing In: The surrounding of a violator's moving vehicle with moving pursuit vehicles which are then slowed to a stop along with the violator's vehicle.

C. Divided Highway: A road which includes a physical barrier between traffic traveling in opposite directions.

D. Heading Off: An attempt to terminate a pursuit by pulling ahead of, behind or toward a violator's moving vehicle to force it to the side of the road or to otherwise come to a stop.

E. Law Enforcement Officer: Any person sworn to uphold the laws of the State of New Jersey, and who is certified by the Police Training Commission or whose training has included Pursuit/Emergency Driving, and who is currently employed by a public safety agency.

F. Paralleling:

1. Street Paralleling: Driving a police vehicle on a street parallel to a street on which a pursuit is occurring.

2. Vehicle Paralleling: A deliberate offensive tactic by one or more patrol vehicles to drive alongside the pursued vehicle while it is in motion.

G. Pursuit Driving: Pursuit driving is an active attempt by a law enforcement officer operating a motor vehicle and utilizing emergency warning lights and an audible device to apprehend one or more occupants of another moving vehicle when the officer reasonably believes that the driver of the fleeing vehicle is aware of the officer's attempt to stop the vehicle and is resisting apprehension by increasing vehicle speed, ignoring the officer or otherwise attempting to elude the officer.

H. Pursuit Vehicles:

1. Primary Unit: The police vehicle that initiates a pursuit or any unit that assumes control of the pursuit as the lead vehicle (the first police vehicle immediately behind the fleeing suspect).

2. Secondary Unit: Any police vehicle which becomes involved as a backup to the primary unit and follows the primary unit at a safe distance.

I. Roadblock: A restriction or obstruction used or intended for the purpose of preventing free passage of motor vehicles on a roadway in order to effect the apprehension of a violator.

1. Avenue of Escape: A gap in a roadblock which requires the violator to decrease the vehicle's speed to permit the violator to bypass the roadblock.

2. Blocking Vehicle: A motor vehicle, often a law enforcement vehicle, which is placed perpendicular to a roadway or angled in such a way as to create a roadblock.

J. Supervisor: A police officer who, by virtue of rank or assignment, is responsible for the direction or supervision of the activities of other police officers.

K. Vehicle Contact Action: Any action undertaken by the pursuing officer intended to result in contact between the moving police vehicle and the pursued vehicle.

I. DECIDING WHETHER TO PURSUE

A police officer has the authority, at all times, to attempt the stop of any person suspected of having committed any criminal offense or traffic violation. It is clear that while it is the officer who initiates the stop, it is the violator who initiates the pursuit. The officer's decision to pursue should always be undertaken with an awareness of the degree of risk to which the law enforcement officer exposes himself and others. The officer must weigh the need for immediate apprehension against the risk created by the pursuit.

A. Authorization to Pursue

1. A police officer may only pursue

a. When the officer reasonably believes that the violator has committed an offense of the first or second degree, or an offense enumerated in Appendix A of this policy, or

b. When a police officer reasonably believes that the violator poses an immediate threat to the safety of the public or other police officers.

2. Pursuit for motor vehicle offenses is not authorized under the above criteria unless the violator's vehicle is being operated so as to pose an immediate threat to the safety of another person.

B. In the event that one of the authorization requirements is satisfied, a pursuit should not be automatically undertaken. An officer must still consider the following factors:

1. Likelihood of successful apprehension.

2. Whether the identity of the violator is known to the point where later apprehension is possible.

3. Degree of risk created by pursuit

a. Volume, type, speed and direction of vehicular traffic.
b. Nature of the area: residential, commercial, school zone, open highway, etc.
c. Population density and volume of pedestrian traffic
d. Environmental factors such as weather and darkness
e. Road conditions: construction, poor repair, extreme curves, ice, etc.
4. Police Officer characteristics

a. Driving skills
b. Familiarity with roads
c. Condition of police vehicle

C. Terminating the pursuit

1. The pursuing officer shall terminate the pursuit

a. If instructed to do so by a supervisor, or
b. If the officer believes that the danger to the pursuing officers or the public outweighs the necessity for immediate apprehension of the violator, or
c. If the violator's identity is established to the point where later apprehension may be accomplished and where there is no immediate threat to the safety of the public or police officers, or
d. If the pursued vehicle's location is no longer known or the distance between the pursuing vehicles and the violator's vehicle becomes so great that further pursuit is futile, or
e. If there is a person injured during the pursuit and there are no police or medical personnel able to render assistance, or
f. If there is a clear and unreasonable danger to the police officer or the public. A clear and unreasonable danger exists when the pursuit requires that the vehicle be driven at excessive speeds or in any other manner which exceeds the performance capabilities of the pursuing vehicles or police officers involved in a pursuit, or
g. If advised of any unanticipated condition, event or circumstance which substantially increases the risk to public safety inherent in the pursuit.

II. ROLE OF THE PURSUING OFFICER

A. The decision to initiate and/or continue a pursuit requires weighing the need to immediately apprehend the violator against the degree of risk to which the officer and others are exposed as a result of the pursuit.

B. Upon the commencement of a pursuit, the pursuing officer will immediately activate emergency lights, audible device and headlights.

C. Once the pursuit has been initiated, the primary unit must notify communications and a superior officer providing as much of the following information as is known:

1. Reason for the pursuit.
2. Direction of travel, designation and location of roadway.
3. Identification of the violator's vehicle: year, make, model, color, vehicle registration number and other identifying characteristics.
4. Number of occupants.
5. The speed of the pursued vehicle.
6. Other information that may be helpful in terminating the pursuit or resolving the incident.

III. VEHICULAR PURSUIT RESTRICTIONS

A. No pursuits will be conducted

1. In a direction opposite to the flow of traffic on a divided highway.
2. In a police vehicle in which an individual who is not a law enforcement officer is either the driver or passenger.

B. No more than two police vehicles (primary unit and secondary unit) shall become actively involved in a pursuit unless otherwise specifically directed by a supervisor.

C. A motorcycle officer may initiate a pursuit, but will relinquish primary unit status immediately upon the participation of a marked police vehicle.

D. An unmarked police vehicle will not participate in a vehicular pursuit unless it is equipped with an emergency light and an audible device. The unmarked car shall relinquish primary unit status immediately upon the participation of a marked vehicle.

E. To diminish the likelihood of a pursuit, a police officer intending to stop a vehicle for any violation of the law shall, when possible and without creating a threat to public safety, close the distance between the two vehicles prior to activating emergency lights and an audible device.

F. Throughout the course of a vehicular pursuit, pursuing officers shall not attempt to overtake or pass the violator's moving vehicle.

G. Upon approaching an intersection controlled by traffic signals or signs, or any other location at which there is a substantially increased likelihood of collision, the operator of any pursuit vehicle shall, prior to entering the intersection, reduce the vehicle's speed and control the vehicle so as to avoid collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian. The officer shall observe that the way is clear before cautiously proceeding through the intersection.

H. Officers involved in a pursuit will not engage in vehicle paralleling.

I. There shall be no street paralleling along the route unless the pursuit passes through a patrol's assigned area. A patrol that is parallel-street-pursuing shall not join or interfere with a pursuit, and shall stop all pursuit-related activity at the boundary of its assigned area.

J. Boxing in or heading off a violator's moving vehicle is permitted only under extraordinary circumstances. These tactics substantially increase the risk inherent in the pursuit and shall only be employed:

1. At low speeds, and
2. With the approval of a supervisor, or
3. In response to an imminent threat to the safety of the public or a police officer.

K. Roadblocks must only be employed as a last resort in circumstances where deadly force would otherwise be justified.

1. The use of a roadblock must be authorized by a supervisor.
2. At no time will a roadblock be established until all pursuing police vehicles are made aware of the roadblock and its location and have acknowledged this awareness.
3. Once a roadblock has been established and a vehicle or barricade has been positioned in the roadway, there shall be:

L. Officers involved in a pursuit shall not fire any weapon from or at a moving vehicle nor engage in any vehicle contact action except as a last resort to prevent imminent death or serious injury to the officer or another person where deadly force would otherwise be justified.


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