In-depth study reveals high fatality rate in U.S. police pursuits, with innocents often bearing the brunt

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29th February 2024 – (Sacramento) The San Francisco Chronicle’s analysis, published on Tuesday, has brought to light that between 2017 and 2022, no fewer than 3,336 individuals have lost their lives as a result of pursuits involving police vehicles across the U.S. Notably, in the years 2020 and 2021 alone, the toll reached 1,377—a stark average of almost two fatalities per day.

The startling revelations come as the first comprehensive analysis of its kind, filling a significant void in federal data, which for years has not comprehensively tracked fatalities associated with police pursuits. This gap in data has left a blind spot in understanding the full impact of these high-risk law enforcement tactics.

According to the Chronicle’s report, which compiled data from federal records, independent research bodies, and various media outlets, the true extent of the casualties is likely higher than reported. The newspaper’s investigation accuses federal agencies of failing to accurately account for the true death toll, suggesting that the actual numbers may be substantially higher, with many fatalities remaining unreported or misclassified.

The breakdown of the statistics is particularly alarming: of the deaths recorded in the specified period, the majority of the victims were either passengers or uninvolved bystanders, rather than the drivers being pursued. Furthermore, a substantial 1,562 of these fatalities arose from chases initiated by minor traffic infractions, rather than serious crimes. Only a mere 15 per cent of the pursuits were in response to alleged violent offences.

The state-by-state analysis reveals that Georgia is at the forefront of pursuit-related deaths, with a rate of 21 fatalities per million residents. It is closely followed by Alabama and New Mexico. This data casts a harsh light on the need for a critical re-evaluation of the policies governing police pursuits, with an emphasis on the safety of the general public and a redefinition of the circumstances that justify such high-stakes responses.