To chase or not to chase: Police pursuits a balance of public safety

Following a rash of high-speed crashes, pursuits, and other traffic incidents across Central Florida, FOX 35 spoke to one expert about when law enforcement should and should initiate a pursuit. 

Dave Benson, a retired federal agent who now works as a security expert in the private sector, said there are several factors that come into play when determining how to pursuit a suspect.

"It’s a balancing act of stopping a suspected vehicle with the safety for everybody involved," he said.

Recently, there were two pursuits that ended in destructive crashes in Port Orange, one of which resulted in the death of a 21-year-old man who was allegedly fleeing authorities.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said they focus on felonies and other violent offenses when initiating high-speed chases and tend not to pursue pursuits for minor offenses, such as traffic violations.

Deputies use this information in tandem with road and traffic conditions to determine the best course of action. It's similar protocol in other departments as well.

Over the weekend, police in Flagler Beach decided not to pursue a suspect who was seen driving recklessly because he was headed toward the busy downtown area. That suspect later crashed into another driver.

Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney said the situation could have been made worse has officers continued to pursue that vehicle.

For both Doughney and Benson, public safety is the number one concern.

"Are you going to actually make a bad situation worse by going on a high speed chase through neighborhoods and highways and everything else?"


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"The person in the car could be completely innocent or a four-time felon that’s not going back to prison unless it’s on their terms," he said. "You just don’t know what you’re dealing with."

With the high risk for tragedy and unsafe speeds, he said oftentimes it’s better for law enforcement to use a different method.

"There’s all kinds of other options that you have than going through a hot pursuit, particularly at a high rate of speed," Benson added.