Dallas police commanders announced Monday to members of the City Council’s public safety committee that they have amended their foot-chase policy. The current policy was highly scrutinized and criticized by officers, claiming they were too confusing and restrictive.
The Dallas Morning Star reported that commanders stated they will allow officers more freedom to make judgment calls in terms of foot chases. They have also modified some of the language in the policy after police associations complained.
The policy outlined when and where an individual officer could chase a suspect on foot. If there are multiple suspects, it was directed that officers should only chase one. The associations and a City Council member were concerned that the restrictions were confusing. They were worried that officers would avoid a foot chase in fear of disciplinary consequences.
“Some of the ambiguity in there was a concern for us,” said Det. Scott Sayers, a Dallas Police Association vice president. “The big concern for an officer was the things they had to think about before they go in a foot pursuit.”
Sayers said officers felt veering from the policy would mean disciplinary action, even though no one had yet to be punished for actions in a foot chase. Chief David Brown said the policy is meant for training purposes, not to be punitive.
“Whether they get disciplined or not, they believe they will get disciplined,” Sayers said.
According to The Dallas Morning Star, Brown said that officers will no longer have to cease chasing suspects whose identities are known. This will assist in stopping domestic violence offenders from going on to commit other crimes. Also some of the language was modified to give officers more latitude in deciding when to chase a suspect and for how long.
The policy, which was intended to save officers’ lives, was put in place after a 2012 police shooting that nearly sparked a riot in South Dallas.
In the occurrence, Officer Brian Rowden chased James Harper out of a drug house, over several fences and into a field where the two got into a fight. Officials stated Rowden was exhausted from running and fighting in the summer heat when he fatally shot Harper, who was unarmed, because he feared losing consciousness, his gun and maybe his life.
The incident led to false rumors that Harper had been shot in the back while fleeing. An intense standoff between residents and police followed.
This led to the policy which in turn started the belief among officers that they could no longer chase suspects one-on-one.
Sayers, who called the Dallas Police Association “a giant suggestion box and complaint box” for officers, said he appreciates that the command staff has been working with the associations but also hopes the policy continues to evolve.
“We get that they want to make officers safer, but police work is not safe,” Sayers said.