San Luis Obispo police officers will no longer pursue fleeing, non-violent suspects in their vehicles, according to a new directive from the chief of police.
SLOPD Chief Steve Gesell confirmed to New Times that he recently instructed officers not to chase suspects fleeing in vehicles unless there is a clear and immediate danger to the public.
“My philosophy has evolved to where I feel we now have to seriously weigh our options,” Gesell said, noting the dangerous nature of the city’s dense population and narrow roads. “You essentially have a 2,000-pound bullet flying through the street. Bad things can happen when you increase that frequency.”
But the change in policy doesn’t mean officers will simply shrug off a fleeing suspect. Gesell admits it will require increased coordination between officers. In response, patrol cars have recently been equipped with spike strips, he said, which will be employed at strategic locations to end a pursuit should a situation require it. There are other methods available, too.
Gesell said the policy augmentation is some six months in the making, and is an issue he’s mulled over since a tragic accident involving an officer death and another involving an innocent pedestrian when he was police chief in Scottsdale, Ariz. He delivered the eulogy at the fallen officer’s funeral.
“When you see that type of tragedy where an innocent citizen dies, the answer is time and again that, no, it’s not worth it,” Gesell said. “And I don’t want to go to another cop’s funeral.”