State Rep. Ajay Pittman, D-OKC, told lawmakers Wednesday pursuit numbers across the state are on the rise. That's why she brought together lawmakers and law enforcement for an interim study on high-speed chases.
“We want to look at, as a state, how do we make this safer? How do we make these families whole?” Pittman said.
The Oklahoma City Democrat said she knew something had to be done after her former classmate Star Shells was killed as an innocent bystander to an Oklahoma City Police pursuit.
“We don’t just chase until whenever, we look for the opportunity to resolve the pursuit quickly,” Department of Public Safety Commissioner Tim Tipton said of OHP’s pursuit policy.
Tipton said when a trooper is evaluating whether to initiate a pursuit, they look at things like weather, speed, traffic conditions and the crime the driver is accused of. He said the reality of confronting isn’t always pretty but is necessary.
“True studies that look at a ‘no pursuit’ policy see that encourages criminal behavior. Running from the police every time police officers try to stop them,” he said.
He said first prioritize the life of innocent bystanders, then officer safety suspect safety and lastly preventing property damage.
Representatives from the Oklahoma City Police Department said the agency engaged in 383 total chases last year, including high-speed and low-speed pursuits.
Deputy Chief Vashina Bulter said department policy is to only have two officers and a supervisor take part in a pursuit and as soon as police helicopter Air One is over the chase, officers disengage.
Asked whether lawmakers should regulate pursuit policy, Bulter said, “I think that should be an agency decision because there are different levels of training, that in the smaller departments they may only have the six weeks of CLEET (training) whereas we’re the largest department in the state and we have right at seven months of academy.”
Pittman encouraged those impacted by pursuits, whether suspects, bystanders or law enforcement, to reach out to her office as she prepares to file legislation for next year’s session.