The Columbus Police Department is changing how it handles pursuits.
Under former Chief Selvain McQueen, officers were instructed not to chase a suspect if he fled. Now, Chief Tony Carleton, is changing that policy.
Carleton told The Dispatch he is rewriting all of the department’s policies and procedures.
The decision whether to pursue suspects is now at the discretion of the department’s shift supervisors, according to Carleton.
“It’s up to the supervisor to make that call,” Carleton said. “They’re the ones that can tell whether someone needs to be chased or not. With the new policy, it will be left up to the supervisor to call it off.”
Whether to pursue a suspect depends on the severity of the alleged crime, according to Carleton, who was sworn in as chief in June.
“We’re not going to endanger the public by chasing misdemeanor-type stuff,” he said. “If it’s a felony and someone that we know has already committed a felony or already endangered the public, then we might chase them. But again, it’s up to the supervisor.”
The new policy is similar to the one other local law enforcement agencies have in place, including the Aberdeen Police Department, the Starkville Police Department, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, Clay County Sheriff’s Department and Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
Officials with the Starkville Police Department said several factors — the nature of the crime, weather conditions and public safety — come into play when deciding whether to pursue a suspect.
Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle said his officers will chase a suspect to the county line and then turn the pursuit over to another agency. Before the pursuit begins, however, his officers must first have permission from the shift supervisor.
Like Carleton, Randle said whether to pursue depends on why the suspect fled. However, the department will pursue all felony suspects, he said.
“We’re not going to pursue someone over a missing taillight,” Randle said.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.