'Too many': HPD Chief Finner reveals revised version of chase policy amid growing number of pursuits

The announcement comes after a sergeant's mother was killed by two carjacking suspects running from police last week.

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Thursday, September 14, 2023
HPD Chief Troy Finner reveals revised version of chase policy
Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner announced a revised policy of initiating a chase on fleeing suspects.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Police Department announced a revised version of its chase policy Thursday morning.

HPD Chief Troy Finner said last week that changes were coming to that policy after a sergeant's mother was killed in a crash with two carjacking suspects who were running from police.

"The suspect disregarded safety for anybody, plowed into those vehicles," Finner said of the Sept. 7 incident. "Let's increase the penalty for people fleeing in vehicles. It's dangerous."

Under the pursuit policy, Houston police can chase a suspect at their own discretion, if they feel the need to arrest the suspect outweighs the risk of harm to the officer or the public. During the Thursday news conference, Finner said officers are now being prohibited from starting a pursuit of suspects with only offenses including a Class C misdemeanor, a traffic or municipal warrant, or a non-violent misdemeanor warrant.

Finner said a supervisor will also have to authorize a pursuit where there is an ongoing investigation or if a suspect has no plates, plates from another vehicle, or stolen plates.

According to HPD, there have been 1,300 pursuits so far this year, which is what Finner called a roughly 26% increase from last year. On average, he said there are five pursuits per day, with each being over six minutes. From January through the end of August, there have been 172 people injured, including 18 officers, 97 suspects, 55 citizens in cars, and one pedestrian. Three suspects one innocent bystander died during police pursuits this year.

"In my opinion, that's too many. We should not pursue every vehicle that flees from us. We don't have to give up the search of the suspect when we terminate the pursuit," Finner said. "That should continue."

FULL VIDEO: HPD Chief Troy Finner discusses revised version of chase policy

Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner announced a revised policy of initiating a chase on fleeing suspects.

The department was also said to have added tactics to stop pursuits more quickly, but Finner said those would not be revealed.

ABC13 spoke to a woman whose husband was killed by a Houston police vehicle involved in a police chase in December 2021.

Michael Wayne Jackson, 62, was walking to get a haircut when he was struck on the sidewalk by officers responding to the end of a chase.

"The change should have been made a long time ago," Janice Jackson, the victim's wife, said. "They come out of the academy, and they need to go through more training, and they need to be held accountable. I am glad they are making some kind of changes. It makes us feel a little better, but it isn't going to bring Michael back or anyone else's loved ones.

READ: See the HPD pursuit policy

Finner once again called for changes in the criminal justice system, asking lawmakers to look into additional adjustments.

"If you shot a gun into a crowd, what would the punishment be? We need the same damn punishment of people in vehicles," he said last week.

The department has previously discussed what officers have to consider before engaging in vehicle pursuits with suspects who refuse to stop, including things like the direction of travel, risk of injury, and an officer's experience.

READ MORE: HPD discusses policy when initiating a pursuit amid growing number of chases

There are a lot of factors that go into initiating a pursuit. Still, police say they're constantly evaluating and assessing the best and safest methods when initiating a chase.

When it comes to how pursuits are initiated, HPD has previously said the decision depends on the ability of an officer, supervisor, or commander to continually assess the need to pursue versus the risk of injury involved in engaging in the pursuit.

Officials added that they're constantly researching, testing, and evaluating new products, such as driving simulators, to prevent and de-escalate pursuits sooner.

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