Authorities: Two kids dead in “horrific” crash following police chase

The recent tragic incident in Delafield, Wisconsin, where two 10-year-old boys were killed in a car crash during a police pursuit, sheds light on the broader issue of the risks and consequences of high-speed police chases.

The incident involved a 29-year-old man, the father of the deceased children, who was fleeing from the police. The vehicle, which was speeding and lacked license plates, crashed, leading to the deaths of the two boys and critical injuries to other passengers, including the driver’s girlfriend, their 6-year-old daughter, and the driver’s 14-year-old niece​​.

The dangers of police pursuits are well-documented. According to a 2017 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 351 people died as a result of pursuit-related crashes in 2012. From 1996 to 2015, there were over 7,000 deaths due to police pursuits, averaging about one fatality per day. The high risk of these pursuits is evident in the fact that nearly one-third (29%) of those killed are innocent bystanders​​​​.

Police pursuit policies are a crucial factor in these statistics. Pursuit policies are generally categorized into three types: discretionary, restrictive, and discouraging. Discretionary policies are the least restrictive, allowing officers to make decisions about initiating and terminating pursuits.

Restrictive policies offer more defined guidelines and often involve seeking advice from commanding officers. Discouraging policies are very cautious about pursuits, recommending them only in extreme situations where no other solution is viable​​.

The impact of these policies on public safety is significant. For instance, data shows that when a more restrictive policy was in place, the number of police chases and the resultant crashes and injuries dropped significantly. In a specific period between 2007 and 2012, there were only seven deaths, and in the three years following, while a restrictive policy was in effect, there were no deaths​​.

However, when restrictions are loosened, the number of chases and fatalities tends to increase. For example, after loosening restrictions, the number of police chases increased by more than 50 percent, resulting in several fatalities​​. This situation reflects a broader trend.

Between 1979 and 2017, approximately 13,100 people were killed in police pursuits, including suspects, innocent bystanders, and police officers. The number of fatalities has been increasing in recent years, with 416 deaths in 2017 alone, a 22% increase from 2013. Of these fatalities, more than 2,700 were innocent bystanders​​.

In California, around 25% of all police pursuits end in some type of collision, resulting in injuries and deaths. In 2016, there were 762 injuries and 24 deaths resulting from police pursuits in the state, with an average of 23 pursuits occurring daily​​.

The dilemma facing officers is complex. They must weigh the risks of pursuing a suspect against the potential danger to the public and the liability to their department. The decision to initiate a pursuit is often made in seconds, yet the consequences can be far-reaching and devastating, as seen in the Wisconsin incident and the broader statistics on police pursuits.

In conclusion, while police pursuits are sometimes necessary for public safety and law enforcement, their risks and consequences cannot be overlooked. The policies governing these pursuits play a crucial role in balancing the need for apprehending suspects with the safety of the public. As the data and tragic incidents illustrate, there is a critical need for carefully crafted and enforced policies that prioritize public safety while effectively addressing crime.

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