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Child’s death in New Orleans reignites debate on police pursuit policies

As investigators probe the death of a 2-year-old girl whose father led Louisiana State Police troopers on a 7-mile chase through New Orleans that ended in a fatal crash and suicide, the girl’s relatives are questioning whether the deadly pursuit was necessary at all.

Troopers initiated the chase because the car was affixed with a stolen license plate, agency spokeswoman Trooper First Class Melissa Matey said Wednesday. She said the car had tinted windows, and troopers did not know the girl and another passenger were in the car. An expert in vehicle pursuits said the possibility that a child would be in a fleeing car would not typically be a factor officers consider when deciding if pursuing a suspect is worth the risk.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police, a more than century-old organization based in Alexandria, Va., that advocates for law enforcement and “addresses emerging issues” in the field, publishes dozens of “model policies” to guide individual agencies. The group’s model vehicle pursuit policy, which was updated in 2015, states chases should be authorized “only if the officer has a reasonable belief that the suspect, if allowed to flee, would present a danger to human life or cause serious injury.”

The model policy also states that “immediate or potential danger” of letting the suspect remain at large should outweigh the danger the pursuit creates for the public and the officer.


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