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What is the Pennsylvania State Police pursuit policy? – NBC10 Philly

It's been more than a week since three adults and a pregnant teenager died after a high-speed police chase ended in a crash in Delaware County.

On Wednesday, April 24, at approximately 1:30 p.m., a red Taurus crashed into a concrete bridge embankment on Rt. 322 in Upper Chichester, Pennsylvania. Four of the seven people in the vehicle – Isaiah Miller, 20, Ikeam Rogers, 20, Kalyn Billups, 21, and Tyjana Motley, 17 – died in the accident. Motley's unborn child was also pronounced dead at the hospital.

“Our hearts and condolences go out to those who lost their lives and families, and to everyone who was involved,” said Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Adam Reed.

As the investigation into the accident continues, several questions remain, including whether or not state troopers should have pursued the vehicle in the first place. While state law requires Pennsylvania police to keep their entire pursuit policy secret, Lt. Reed — who serves as communications director for the Pennsylvania State Police — some of the basic aspects of the policy.

He told NBC10 the ordeal began last week when state troopers were surveilling the Brinton Lake Mall in Concord Township due to a recent retail theft. Then they spotted the red bull.

“They saw a vehicle where the occupants were acting suspiciously,” Lt. Reed.

State police said the Taurus had a tinted windshield, expired inspection stickers and a paper tag hidden by a tinted license plate cover.

“The reason for the stop was the equipment violations in question,” said Lt. Reed. “And the operator decided not to stop and the pursuit began.”

Lt. Reed said it is State Police policy to pursue a car if the driver does not stop.

“Our pursuit policy allows our members to pursue a vehicle if the driver chooses not to yield during an attempted traffic stop,” he said.

“And it doesn’t matter what the violation is?” NBC10 investigative reporter Claudia Vargas asked.

“It doesn’t matter what the violation is,” Reed replied.

Reed said police must balance their duty to arrest a perpetrator against the risk to public safety.

“I will not make any further assumptions or comment on the decision at this time because, again, every decision is different and things move very quickly,” he said.

The Pennsylvania State Police are investigating the incident internally.

Last week's pursuit is part of a growing increase in police chases in Pennsylvania, particularly involving state police. The number of state police pursuits assigned to Philadelphia and surrounding counties increased from 127 in 2019 to 373 in 2023, according to state police data.

During this time, state police pursuits in our region have resulted in 200 injuries and five deaths in 2022 and 2023.

The State Police tracks all police chases in the state and continually updates the data on its chase reporting website.

Reed said he couldn't answer why there has been an increase in state police pursuits.

“You would have to ask the people who choose to flee from us,” he said.

“Well, I’m asking from a police perspective,” Claudia Vargas replied. “You are actively choosing to pursue some of these vehicles.”

“Well, people want to run from us, you know, and we're doing our duty and trying to arrest them,” Reed said.

The increase in police pursuits is not just a local trend. Geoff Alpert — a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina who has studied police chases for several decades — says chases have increased nationwide in recent years.

“After the COVID crisis, we have seen some movement where departments are relaxing that standard,” Alpert said. “And now, because of this détente, I believe we are seeing the persecutions that you are discussing.”

Alpert said last week's chase in Upper Chichester and others like it were inappropriate.

“They are extremely risky and there is no real reason to prosecute the person,” he said.

Alpert was part of a Police Executive Research Forum working group that produced a 160-page guide for law enforcement agencies on managing the risks associated with car chases. The 2023 report contained one key recommendation.

“Prosecutions should only take place if two very specific standards are met,” the report said. “(1) A violent crime has been committed and (2) the suspect poses an imminent threat of committing another violent crime.”

“Just because I'm not tracking you doesn't mean I can't try to find out where you've been, find out who you are,” Alpert said. “And in many cases, we can arrest you later.”

Reed, meanwhile, told NBC10 that the Pennsylvania State Police's pursuit policy has not changed and that people must stop if a trooper asks them to stop. Otherwise, the state police are authorized to prosecute.

Anna Harden

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