Atlanta, GA – Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields announced on Friday that, effective immediately, the Atlanta Police Department has a “no-chase policy.”
Chief Shields faced off with reporters after an internal email she sent out to the entire police department on Friday morning was leaked to the media.
In the email, the chief pointed to the failure of the judicial system as a key reason for changing the department’s chase policy, WGCL reported.
She told reporters the same thing.
“I don’t want to see us cost someone their life in pursuit of an auto theft person or a burglar when the court’s not even going to hold them accountable,” Chief Shields said. “I mean how can we justify that? And I think we are better than that.”
“It goes back to the repeat offender issue,” the chief continued. “Okay, we get the person in custody and we look at how many times have we arrested them?”
“If nothing is happening to the individuals when we’re locking them up, and yet we’re absorbing this level of risk and liability – I mean that just is not a good business model. I’d rather we put better emphasis on our investigative techniques,” she told reporters.
Critics have called the policy change a knee-jerk reaction to criticism of the police department’s handling of incidents where civilians were seriously hurt or killed by suspects driving at high speeds to evade police, WGCL reported.
The chief explained that Atlanta PD having a restrictive chase policy was nothing new.
“Just to summarize, we’ve had a restrictive pursuit policy for many years… but we’ve had a few incidences when the officers are rightfully pursuing – they’re in line with state law, they’re in line with policy – but the pursuit itself is just not essential. Not given the risk reward that goes with engaging in a pursuit. And I just feel as though we need to step back and make the policy even more restrictive,” Chief Shields said.
“I would rather err on the side of safety even if it does mean temporarily not being as active in a space as I feel we maybe need to be,” she said.
“It’s effective immediately, today, that there is a no-chase policy,” the chief confirmed to reporters.
Chief Shields said that a year ago, the department had selected some highly-trained officers to be trained by the Georgia State Police on PIT maneuvers and high-speed chases.
“We made a concerted effort to invest their time into training in this specific area and they’ve done a nice job,” she explained, but went on to say the problem is when assisting units who join the chase aren’t as well trained.
“The policy simply has to be very restrictive,” the chief said.
In her memo to the police force regarding the no-chase policy, Chief Shields said she knew her decision wasn’t going to be popular with the rank-and-file.
“Please know that I realize this will not be a popular decision; and more disconcerting to me personally, is that this decision may drive crime up,” the chief wrote. “I get it.”
She tried to frame her decision as being more about officers’ safety given the lightweight judicial atmosphere.
“At his point and time, the department is assuming an enormous risk to the safety of officers and the public for each pursuit, knowing that the judicial system is largely unresponsive to the actions of the defendants,” Chief Shields wrote.
Atlanta resident Chris Rich told WSB that he was still trying to make sense of the chief’s new policy.
“This is pretty drastic,” Rich said. “If I’m a criminal, it’s open season. It’s going to impact all the law-abiding citizens. It’s worrisome.”