By Tiara Cole
When Milwaukee Police are faced with the quick decision on whether to pursue a suspect, there are mixed reviews and several risk factors to consider. But, what are the first thoughts that may run through an officer’s mind when someone decides to flee?
The law? Their life? The safety of others? Assistant Milwaukee Police Chief Ray Banks said it can be combination of all three. With the recent crash on June 7 involving officers Matthew Schulz who was injured and 23-year-old Charles Irvine, who died pursuing a suspect, it’s important to analyze risks of the pursuit policy from an officer’s perspective.
Banks was promoted to Assistant Police Chief in April. And, he joined the Milwaukee Police Department in 1991. When asked how he’s adjusting to his new role, he responded, “It’s stressful. This has been the most stress I’ve had since I’ve been on the job because I care.” He added that he wants no one to get hurt during chases.
“When you decide you’re going to flee you put everybody at risk unnecessarily,” he said. “Whatever it is that they’re running for is not nearly as serious as what they’re going to be charged with for fleeing.”
Retired Milwaukee Police Sgt. Kerry Flowers explained why he believes there’s a need for the pursuit policy. “It could be the skill level of an officer or it could be the mechanical abilities of the vehicle. That’s why we have pursuing policies in place,” he said. He added that it is a lot easier and safer to catch a suspect on foot than it is in a vehicle.
Flowers has seen several squad car accidents. He recalled an incident when he and his former partner were quickly in the midst of a high-speed chase. “Before I knew it, we were t-boned and it threw him right in the seat with me. He was grabbing his arm and I was like are you OK?” he said. “I didn’t know I had dislocated my shoulder. I wasn’t thinking about me, I was thinking about him.”
In 2010, officers only pursued suspects with violent felonies. The policy changed last September, which now allows police to pursue cars for traffic violations and drug dealing. With the new policy police pursuits increased 20 percent by the end of 2017, CBS 58 News reported. The percentage is even higher this year.
Officers have not been re-trained on the new policy, but said “retraining is not Necessary.
“A review of the new policy was necessary.”
Fleeing from an officer is a felony and puts many lives at risk. The Wisconsin State Legislature states that no operator of a vehicle shall knowingly flee or attempt to elude any officer.