Houston PD announces changes in pursuit policy, stopping pursuits for certain offenses

HPD officers will no longer pursue drivers suspected of Class C offenses, including minor traffic violations and theft, according to the new policy

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Photo/ Houston Police Department

By Sarah Roebuck

HOUSTON — Houston Police Chief Troy Finner announced sweeping changes to the department’s pursuit policies, KPRC reports.

During a news conference on Thursday, Finner stated that he called on legislators across the country to enhance penalties for individuals who flee in vehicles, thereby posing a threat to the community. He also engaged in discussions with lawmakers regarding the protocols for law enforcement officers when dealing with such scenarios.

Finner discussed several major points of the department’s new pursuit policy for officers during the news conference.

According to the updated policy, officers are no longer permitted to pursue drivers suspected of Class C offenses, including minor traffic violations and theft, which were identified as the primary reasons for HPD vehicle pursuits over the past five years, according to an analysis by the Houston Chronicle.

Additionally, HPD will cease pursuing individuals suspected of having traffic or nonviolent misdemeanor warrants, with the exception that supervisors may still authorize pursuits of suspects involved in ongoing investigations or individuals operating vehicles with stolen license plates, no plates or plates registered to a different vehicle, the Houston Chronicle reports.

In accordance with both departmental regulations and state legislation, Finner emphasized that an officer can initiate a vehicle pursuit solely when, in good faith, the officer assesses that the urgency of apprehending the suspect immediately outweighs the potential danger to either the officer or the general public in pursuing the suspect.

According to the policy, when officers evaluate the risk of injury, they must consider the total of the circumstances, including but not limited to the following factors:

  • The relative performance capabilities of the fleeing vehicle and the officer’s vehicle.
  • Road, lighting and weather conditions.
  • Population density and time of day.
  • Traffic conditions, including the presence and number of motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
  • The speed of the fleeing vehicle and the officer’s vehicle, especially in relation to the speed limit and customary flow of traffic.
  • The effect of the speed of the involved vehicles on stopping distance.
  • The distance between the primary and secondary unis and the fleeing vehicle.
  • The officer’s reaction time at the current speed.
  • The likelihood that any Involved vehicle may crash under the current circumstances.
  • The nature and severity of injuries to any person from a possible crash under the current circumstances.
  • The possibility that the motor vehicle pursuit would cause an additional risk of secondary crashes.
  • The duration of the motor vehicle pursuit.

Finner mentioned that the department has introduced specialized training and strategies focused on preventing pursuits from even starting, with a strong emphasis on stopping techniques.