Police in South Carolina Town Not Allowed to Chase Suspects

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There are many sad examples of innocent bystanders and police officers being injured as a result of high-speed chases, and so it is understandable that some cities might direct officers not to engage in those kinds of pursuits, on the grounds that it usually isn't worth the risk.  But Wellford, South Carolina, is probably the only place where police have been directed not to chase suspects at all, even on foot.

The zero-chase policy is by order of Sallie Peake, the mayor of Wellford, a town of about 2,000 in northwest South Carolina.  Apparently, several officers there have suffered minor injuries during chases in recent years, including two who were injured and wrecked their vehicles during chases in July, and three who have been injured during foot chases.  Mayor Peake has pointed out that the injuries cost the city a lot of money in workers' compensation claims and increased insurance premiums, and earlier this month she decided she was sick of it.

"As of this date," she wrote in a September 2 memo to all officers, there are to be no more foot chases when a suspect runs.  I do not want anyone chasing after any suspects whatsoever."

Asked what officers should do if they saw someone committing a crime, but could not reach that person without moving, Mayor Peake seemed to try to distinguish between the crime itself and a chase.  "That's what I said, no chases, didn't I?" she told a reporter.  "I didn't say nothing about a crime."  "Well, that's what a chase is," the reporter argued, apparently suggesting that a criminal might actually try to flee from police.  She then accused him of twisting her words, and when he asked another question, began to clap her hands and sarcastically congratulate him on "getting a story."

Wellford Police Chief Chris Guy bravely insisted that his officers could still protect the public even though they are not allowed to chase criminals anymore.  "Just because a suspect may run," he said, "does not mean we can't identify them, sign warrants, and catch them later."  That last part suggests he hasn't completely thought this through yet.

Link: News Channel 7 (Spartanburg/Asheville)