Deadly police chases on the rise in Georgia

Things like time of day, location and weather conditions all play a role in deciding whether or not to pursue.
Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 6:07 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Each year, hundreds of people die in police pursuits nationwide.

The number of pursuits has increased over the past five years, according to data from a Georgia Department of Public Safety report. That includes at least 1,673 pursuits in 2022.

There are two sides to this issue — police looking to get criminals off the streets to protect people and those who say the risk is just not worth it.

The Crisp County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have a no-chase policy. They decide on a case-by-case basis.

“You get above the speed limit, people are in danger,” said Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock. “And that’s the reason we train every year with due regard, realizing that we can’t blow through intersections and traffic lights and things of that nature. And it’s very end of her pursuit, you know, the potential that risks to public safety that If you know we’re looking at with all that caution, it’s crucially that we carefully weigh all the decisions each time. And each pursuit stands on itself and its merits before you decide to pursue.”

On the other side of the issue is Taylor Hartley. He says it’s been 16 years since an Albany police chase ended the life of an innocent bystander. One of his best friends, Billy Klewitz.

In 2020, there were 50 fatal crashes statewide. In 2021, there were 34. These are numbers according to federal data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This is the highest these state numbers have been in recent decades. In 1988, there were just two.

“Anytime you put an officer behind a 4,000-pound missile, and it’s something that he uses every day, the potential is there,” said Hancock. “If you look at the number one killer of law enforcement officers, you realize that is from automobile crashes as well, more so than gunfire and knife assaults. Because that car is something that they’re in all the time. It’s something that things can go wrong very rapidly. So I do, I do understand why the statistics would be high for automobile crashes, and especially pursuits. You’re not just narrowing the suit out.”

Hancock says things like high-speed training and road courses aim to help deputies prepare for high-intensity situations.

“I want people to see officers for what they are and who they are,” said Hancock. “Every day out here putting their lives at risk. And we don’t take anything lightly. We understand that many things we do put people in danger, but we have to do them for the ultimate result which is keeping our community safe on our people.”

Both Valdosta Police Captain Scottie Johns and Albany Police Chief Michael Persley said they also do not have a “no chase” policy. However, Johns said at any point, officers can decide to stop pursuing.

Things like time of day, location and weather conditions all play a role in deciding whether or not to pursue.