Policy: Emergency Runs and Pursuits

PURPOSE

The purpose of this order is to provide officers with guidelines to follow when engaged in an emergency run or high speed pursuit.

POLICY

Officer Duties

The Michigan State University Police Department (Department) recognizes that in course of their duties, officers may be required to engage in an emergency run or high-speed pursuit.

It is the duty of every officer to operate the police vehicle with “due regard” for the safety of others and every officer will be held accountable for the decision to initiate an emergency run or a high-speed pursuit.

No part of this policy shall be construed as having any force of law or creating any legal right.

Policy Criteria

In order to utilize the provisions listed in this policy, an officer must form a reasonable belief that an emergency exists.

It is the policy of the Department that the following criteria shall be utilized in determining if an emergency exists:

Any situation involving a potential threat to life.

Any situation involving a potential infliction of great bodily harm.

Any situation involving the potential escape of a perpetrator who poses a significant threat to the life or safety of others.

DEFINITIONS

Emergency Run

An emergency run is the operation of an authorized emergency vehicle in response to an emergency call or in an emergency situation, requiring the activation of oscillating, rotating or flashing lights and siren, as long as the officer has formed a reasonable belief that an emergency exists and continues to operate the vehicle with due regard for the safety of others.

The current four-wheel drive Tahoe’s are “pursuit rated” and may be used for emergency runs when authorized.

B. High-Speed Pursuit

A high-speed pursuit is an active attempt, by a law enforcement officer operating a motor vehicle and utilizing simultaneously all emergency equipment, to apprehend one or more occupants of another moving vehicle, when the driver of the fleeing vehicle is aware of that attempt and is resisting apprehension by maintaining or increasing his speed, ignoring the officer, or otherwise attempting to flee or elude the officer while driving at speeds in excess of the legal speed limit.

Pursuits that do not involve speeds in excess of the legal limit must still be conducted under the guidelines of this procedure.

The current four-wheel drive Tahoe’s are “pursuit rated” and may be used for high speed pursuit when authorized.

PROCEDURES

Emergency Runs

Emergency Equipment

Officers shall activate all flashing, rotating or oscillating lights, headlights, and siren while engaging in an emergency run.

State Law Relating to Emergency Vehicles

MCLA 257.603 (b)

The driver of an authorized vehicle when responding to an emergency call, but not while returning from an emergency call, may exercise the privileges set forth in this Section, subject to the conditions of this Section.

MCLA 257.603 (c)

The driver of an authorized emergency vehicle may:

Park or stand, irrespective of the provisions of this act.

Proceed past a red or stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation.

Exceed the prima facie speed limits so long as he/she does not endanger life or property.

Disregard regulations governing direction of movement or turning in a specified direction.

Seatbelt Requirement

Any officer driving or person riding in a department patrol vehicle engaged in an emergency run, shall wear a seatbelt as provided whenever the vehicle is in motion.

Motorcycle

Officers operating motorcycle units shall not engage in a pursuit driving incident.

Parking

When an officer responds to an emergency call, he or she may lawfully park in a manner otherwise prohibited by the Michigan Vehicle Code.

In doing so, however; the officer must park the vehicle in a manner and place which recognizes the duty of due regard for the safety of others.

Emergency Run Response

Once an officer has determined that an emergency exists under the above criteria, the officer shall operate his or her vehicle in consideration of all the factors described in this procedure.

The primary objective of the officer is to arrive safely, with the speed of the response governed by due regard for the safety of themselves and others, and the current factors listed in this procedure.

An officer responding to an emergency call, that he or she has not been dispatched to, will notify the 9-1-1 Center of his or her intention to respond before utilizing lights and siren.

Emergency Runs Where Silence is Required

MCLA 257.632 provides that an officer, while responding to an emergency, must activate the lights and siren to obtain an exemption to violate speed laws, unless the mission requires that the officer travel without giving warning to suspected law violators at the scene. This includes incidents that are in-progress, (i.e., burglaries, assaults, unknown incidents that have a potential for personal injury, alarms, etc.) Even though the statute allows this exemption, it does not exempt the officer from the responsibility of acting with due regard for the safety of others.

Pursuits

Factors to evaluate pursuits

The officer must constantly reevaluate the decision to continue the pursuit based on the danger the pursuit creates to the community as it continues, versus the need for apprehension.

The officer must always show proper due regard for the welfare of the citizens in the community, or it is prima facie evidence that the officer is negligent.

The officer must demonstrate reasonable actions and responses, irrespective of how the violator behaves or it is a prima facie case of negligence against the officer.

The officer cannot behave in a manner that could be construed as “pushing” the violator to perform in a careless or reckless manner.

This can be avoided by the Primary Officer maintaining a 3 to 5 second following distance behind the violator, in most cases, although other factors may preclude this.

Officers must conform their driving behavior with this policy as this document is the minimum standard of behavior that the courts will base their decisions on in the future, in any litigation.

Emergency Equipment

Whenever an officer initiates a pursuit, the officer shall activate the overhead oscillating lights, headlights, and siren.

State Law

MCLA 257.632

The speed limitation set forth in this chapter shall not apply to vehicles when operated with due regard for safety under the direction of the police when traveling in emergencies or in chase or apprehension of violators of the law or of persons charged with or suspected of a violation. This exemption shall apply only when the driver of the vehicle in motion sounds an audible signal by bell, siren or exhaust whistle as may be reasonably necessary or when the vehicle is equipped with at least one lighted lamp displaying a flashing, oscillating or rotating red or blue light visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of 500 feet to the front of such vehicles, unless the nature of the mission requires that a law enforcement officer travel without giving warning to suspected law violators. This procedure requires the activation of overhead lights and siren in pursuit situations.

Pursuits of Known Subject

The officer should not initiate a pursuit if the subject can be identified to the point where later apprehension can be accomplished without placing the public or officers in undue jeopardy caused by delayed apprehension.

Initiating a Pursuit

Officer Responsibilities: When a pursuit is initiated by an officer, he or she shall immediately advise the 9-1-1 Center of the following information:

The reason for the pursuit and the violation or crime committed (e.g., traffic violation, misdemeanor or felony, suspect, etc.).

The locations, direction of travel, and speeds during the pursuit.

As complete a description of the pursued vehicle as possible, including:

License plate number.

Color and distinguishing characteristics.

Number and description of occupants.

Type of weapons (if applicable) and traffic/ pedestrian conditions, along with updates as those conditions and roadways change.

Supervisor Responsibilities

Once notified, a Supervisor shall monitor the progress of the pursuit and exercise his or her discretion to order specific units into or out of the pursuit, authorize roadblocks, or order immediate termination of the pursuit based on the factors listed in this policy.

Factors to Consider When Initiating/Continuing an Emergency Run or Pursuit

Time of day, lighting conditions, volume of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, location of the pursuit and the pursuing officers familiarity with the area of the pursuit, weather and road conditions, speeds involved and nature of the offense.

Apparent Ability of the Pursued Driver

Inexperienced drivers, juveniles, persons operating under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, and others may exhibit a lack of capacity or experience to maintain proper control of their vehicles when pursued.

The officer’s goal may switch from one of apprehension to one of advanced warning to other drivers/pedestrians using the roadway.

Civilians in a Police Vehicle

An officer transporting a civilian or prisoner shall not engage in an emergency run or pursuit, due to exposing the civilian to unnecessary risk.

An officer with an authorized ride-along civilian passenger shall not engage in a pursuit and shall use discretion when in response to an emergency run.

Even though the ride-along passenger signs a Waiver of Responsibility, this document will not prevent all civil liability for an officer’s consequences of reckless disregard for the passenger’s safety.

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Required Report

Pursued Driver Escapes or Pursuit is Terminated

Whenever an officer engages in a pursuit in which the accused escapes or the pursuit is terminated, a police report will be written and a complaint number taken.

A description of all the facts, including the reasons for the pursuit and the circumstances of the escape or termination, will be included in the report.

Pursued Driver is Apprehended

Whenever an officer engages in a pursuit in which the accused is apprehended and a report for the offense of Flee and Elude or some other charge is initiated, no additional report is required.

Accountability

Officers

It is the duty of every officer to operate the police vehicle with “due regard” for the safety of others. Every officer will be held accountable for the decision to initiate an emergency run or a high-speed pursuit.

Once initiated, every officer will likewise be held accountable for the decision to continue an emergency run or high-speed pursuit.

Officers shall be prepared to discontinue an emergency run or high-speed pursuit whenever factors or circumstances indicate that continuation would be unsafe or when life or property is endangered.

In situations where a supervisor has terminated the pursuit, the pursuing officers must immediately discontinue the pursuit.

Officers should drive in a manner that enables them to keep their vehicles under control at all times and drive at speeds which will enable them to avoid hazards.

Supervisors

In addition to all of the provisions listed above, Supervisors shall be responsible for monitoring the progress of high speed pursuits and shall be accountable (along with the patrol officers) for decisions relating to the continuation of emergency runs and high-speed pursuits.

When information indicates that officers should have been ordered to discontinue operation as an emergency vehicle, Supervisors shall be held accountable if they failed to direct other actions pursuant to this policy.