Pinellas County sheriff puts breaks on dangerous car chases

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office announced Monday it has changed its pursuit policy for deputies. They're only allowed to chase suspects in vehicles if the suspect has committed a violent crime or could cause harm to others.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri did not point to a specific chase that led to the policy change. He said he did it for overall safety reasons.
 
"When we engage in pursuits it is about life and death situations. They are dangerous and people do die as a result," he said.
 
He added sometimes those people weren't involved in the crimes, like during a chase in July 2011. Pinellas deputies chased Stacy Naples after they suspected she was selling marijuana. She sped away and crashed into a car driven by Richard Trompke, who later died. Under the new policy deputies would not have chased her.
 
"It better be worth it. It better not be for a property crime. It better not be for a stolen car. It better not be something that isn’t worth someone’s life," Gualtieri said.
 
The new policy says crimes involving a weapon or a violent act must have already occurred in order to start a car chase.
 
"We have addressed the two circumstances which makes sense to get someone off the street: A bad person and horrific driving where they are going to hurt someone badly," the sheriff said.
 
The change makes official what the sheriff said he already put into practice in early 2013, which he said significantly reduced the number of deputy-involved chases.
 
If a deputy violates the new policy, he or she could face a range of consequences, he said, from a five-day suspension up to termination.
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