Apr 15, 2024 - News

Florida's new chase policy lets troopers speed, drive the wrong way

Illustration of several police cruiser lights, some of them transparent.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Florida Highway Patrol has loosened its pursuit policy, granting state troopers more discretion to start a car chase and allowing them to speed or even drive the wrong way, according to a new report from Stateline.

Why it matters: The policy change contradicts guidance from leading industry experts and data that suggests fewer restrictions on chases make roads more dangerous.

Catch up quick: Many states and law enforcement agencies β€” including those in Tampa Bay β€” have shifted their policies over the last decade to allow chases only in narrow circumstances

  • Often, it's when a pursuit subject is believed to have committed a violent felony or poses an imminent danger to the public.

The intrigue: A Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles spokesperson declined to provide Axios with data backing up the revision, which occurred in March, per the policy.

Instead, spokesperson Molly Best-Thorp said the policy empowers troopers to use their best judgment and is unique in its emphasis on ending a chase as quickly as possible.

  • Executive director Dave Kerner said in a statement the policy is in line with Gov. Ron DeSantis' vision of Florida as a "law-and-order state."
Fatal police chase incidents, 2017–2022
Reproduced from Stateline; Map: Axios Visuals

Reality check: More than 3,300 people nationwide were killed in police chases from 2017 to 2022, according to a San Francisco Chronicle investigation cited in the Stateline report.

  • Most stemmed from pursuits over traffic offenses, nonviolent crimes or cases in which no crime had occurred.
  • In the years before and after loosening its pursuit restrictions, Milwaukee's chases soared while the apprehension rate (the number of people caught by pursuing police) fell from 91% to 38%.

The other side: Florida's highway safety department declined to comment on those statistics, telling Axios it would "not be appropriate to comment on data from other states."

Read the Stateline report

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