The Franklin County Sheriff has changed how the department handles vehicle pursuits in an effort to increase safety.
All sheriff pursuits, regardless of the officer’s rank, now have to respond to a remote, supervising deputy. Before, high-ranking officers like lieutenants could supervise themselves.
The move comes after a number of chases ended in collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians.
Chief Deputy Jim Gilbert, who heads up the patrol bureau, says the key change is that the pursuing officer will continuously update that deputy.
“That supervisor is having to gauge and monitor what he’s being relayed over the radio as to whether or not he’s going to permit that pursuit to start, to continue,” Gilbert says.
Gilbert says pursuing officers tend to get tunnel vision. Requiring them to continually get clearance from someone outside of the car is meant to keep them taking unnecessary risks.
Gilbert explains pursuing officers will have to update a supervisor as their situation changes, for instance when they move to a different road or enter a subdivision.
In some situations under the policy, deputies could wind up supervising higher-ranked officers.
"In this instance, if a lieutenant is the one that's involved in the pursuit, a sergeant at that point can determine whether or not the lieutenant shall continue,” Gilbert says. “It's probably one of the only rare circumstances in law enforcement in which a rank kind of goes out the window."
Gilbert says the office has already seen a 40% reduction in pursuits in the last half year from supervisors shutting them down.