CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new pursuit policy for the North Carolina Highway Patrol outlines when troopers can and cannot chase suspects.
The policy requires troopers to have more supervisor oversight when chases begin and to activate their blue lights and sirens during chases. It also requires other police agencies that want troopers to get involved in a pursuit to request it.
There have been several recent instances in which trooper-involved pursuits have ended with crashes. In early June, a trooper was chasing a reckless driver in Shelby when he crashed into a telephone pole and split his car in half.
Leaders from the Highway Patrol said the new policy is not in reaction to any specific crash.
“In reality, we’re constantly looking at information, our training and any issues that arise and adapt our policy accordingly,” Sgt. Jeff Gordon said.
Troop H, which includes troopers in Mecklenburg County and eight other counties, had 75 pursuits last year, which is more than any other division in the state.
• Greenville area: 40 chases in 2008, 36 in 2009
• Fayetteville area: 67 in 2008, 72 in 2009
• Raleigh area:74 in 2008, 64 in 2009
• Greensboro area: 38 in 2008, 43 in 2009
*Salisbury and surrounding area: 46 in 2008, 45 in 2009
• Newton and surrounding area: 30 in 2008, 39 in 2009
• Asheville and surrounding area: 39 in 2008, 23 in 2009
• Charlotte/Gastonia/Monroe area: 68 in 2008, 75 in 2009
Vivian Lord, a criminal justice professor, said she thinks the new policy will lead to fewer chases, even if it means more suspects getting away.
“The Highway Patrol is maybe ratcheting up their concern for the innocent citizen who could be in the way, a bit more,” Lord said.
Drivers like Sharla Moore welcome that idea.
“You can’t chase everybody and sometimes you just let them go,” Moore said. “I mean, eventually you’ll catch up with them, anyway.”