In Pursuit of Safety, A Cut to the Chases
Monday, January 13, 2003; Page A03
Maybe it all began with O.J. Simpson and his white Ford Bronco. Or when every local television station started using helicopters to cover anything that remotely resembled news. Or maybe a city so tangled in freeways and addicted to driving just can't ever resist a wild chase.
Police pursuits have become such a constant spectacle here in recent years that about 2,000 residents pay $5 a month to subscribe to a service that alerts them by pager or e-mail as soon as another chase is broadcast live on television. Hundreds occur every year, far more than in any other city.
But life as Los Angeles has come to know it is about to change.
The city's police commission decided a few days ago to put the brakes on most of the chases that officers initiate, saying the practice has become too reckless. Officers can still pursue suspects wanted for serious crimes, but only in rare instances will they be allowed to chase motorists who commit traffic infractions, such as running a stop sign.
The new policy, he said, will not preclude police officers from chasing traffic scofflaws under certain circumstances, such as if a license plate check shows that a suspect is wanted for other offenses.
But the days of perennial pursuits around Los Angeles appear to be over.
"I'm sorry," Bratton said, "but I'm not responsible for ratings."