As more police restrict high-speed pursuits, some wonder if fleeing is ‘get out of jail free’ card

WGN Investigates

As more police departments adopt policies restricting high-speed pursuits, some wonder whether “hitting the gas” is increasingly becoming a “get out of jail free” card. 

“The criminals have all the power right now,” said Jim Becker after his car was hit by a driver fleeing from a traffic stop in Orland Park.   

A police dash cam video captured one of the officers saying “holy smokes” as the driver sped off. 

“We are not pursuing,” the officer radioed to dispatch.  A few blocks later, the fleeing driver smashed into Becker’s car and then took off.  

“There’s no doubt [officers] are not allowed to do the job they’re sworn to do,” Becker said.

Gathering data on police pursuits is difficult. The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board compiles pursuit information from departments that voluntarily submit it. But many, including Chicago police, don’t supply data to the state. Of the 512 police pursuit reports filed with the state in 2019, only 5-percent involved drivers suspected of felony crimes. 

Due to the danger posed to officers, the fleeing driver and innocent bystanders many departments now only allow pursuits if the driver being chased poses an immediate public threat. Last year, Chicago police data shows officers engaged in 256 reported pursuits. 82% of those chases were terminated for a variety of reasons, including risk.

What are the motivations for fleeing officers?  How often do police departments follow-up after a driver flees? See the surprising results above.

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