WICHITA, Kansas — So far this month, Wichita Police have been involved in chases that average to one a day. The sheriff’s office has been in seven chases. Are they necessary and are they putting innocent lives at risk?
A dozen of those chases have been in just the last week. The most recent involved both the sheriff’s office and police as deputies tried to pull over a car on West McCormick around 1:30 a.m Tuesday. The chase ended about 3 miles away when the suspect backed into an empty police cruiser.
With police involved chases on the rise in the past month, many have questions about where the line is drawn and what happens if a pursuit goes into a residential area.
It’s a dangerous call when to pursue a criminal but for law enforcement it is one that has to be made at a moment’s notice. Whether it takes police or deputies through neighborhoods or the countryside.
“It’s not so much the location of the chase, it’s the conditions surrounding the chase and the crime that’s being committed and that’s part of that pursuit matrix, that decision matrix,” said Lt. Doug Nolte with the Wichita Police Department.
That matrix takes many factors into consideration including weather conditions, upcoming roads, if there are people likely in the area, how fast the cars are going and the traffic in the area.
“You know, 4:00 a.m. in the morning on a residential street, is it the same as 4:00 p.m. on a residential street? No, but if this person has just committed a crime of homicide do we just let this person go or do we continue to chase?” said Nolte.
Officials with the sheriff’s office agree it is a touchy subject.
“We are reacting to what the violator’s doing, we can’t say, get onour speaker, okay it’s a residential area you’re not supposed to go in there. They’re gonna go where they wanna go, we’re simply following this person,” said Lt. David Mattingly with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.
Especially if they don’t know why the suspect is trying to get away. Sheriff policy asks deputies to consider the charges against the driver and the risks to others involved and make their decision based on those factors.
“We terminate the pursuit and it turns out they just committed a double homicide, you’re almost kinda damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” said Mattingly.