No solutions, only tradeoffs – Milwaukee Council wants police pursuit restrictions eased

Milwaukee, Wisconsin-

Thirteen of the 15 members of the Milwaukee City Council want to rewrite their police department’s pursuit policy. Going against the trend of more restrictive police pursuit policies, a majority of the Council is seeking to lift some of the current restrictions.

This group is seeking to ease the current policy’s total ban of pursuits based solely on traffic violations. Since pursuits were restricted Milwaukee has seen significant increases in fatal accidents, hit and run crashes, red light violations, and speeding. The police have also reported a significant increase of drivers fleeing traffic stops.

The 13 members of the Council stated in a letter: “The public, particularly those less inclined to obey traffic laws, now knows that there are certain offenses for which there is little or no likelihood of ever being caught, . . .”.

The Mayor and the Milwaukee Police Chief oppose changing the pursuit policy because they believe that the pursuit restrictions save lives. Milwaukee’s pursuit policy was severely restricted in 2010, after a three-month period during which 4 people were killed, by drivers fleeing the police. Opponents of changing the current policy say it saves lives. The Council Members counter that assertion by observing that the rate of fatal hit and run crashes has increased dramatically since the policy change in 2010.

The pursuit policy experience in Milwaukee is not unique. Restrictive pursuit policies in many cities have resulted in similar unintended consequences. Since these restrictions have been instituted, many cities have seen an enormous increase of unregistered quads and motorcycles being operated recklessly in their parks; and on their streets and sidewalks.

News Footage: Reckless quad and motorcycle riders put lives at risk as they hurtle down the sidewalks and streets in Washington, DC.

In cities with restrictive pursuit policies, illegal drug distribution is increasingly being conducted from motor vehicles. Dealers have seen that the ability to flee, without being chased, is a distinct business advantage.

The restrictive pursuit policies have decreased the number of people killed during police pursuits. Unfortunately, the restrictive pursuit policies have also increased the number of individuals killed by lawless drivers. These policies were enacted because many people believed that they would save lives. The supporters of the 2010 restrictive pursuit policy did not consider the possibility that a troubling proportion of Milwaukee’s 599,642 citizens might view their policy as an opportunity to break laws with almost total impunity.  They are discovering that there are also deadly consequences when the police are essentially forced to ignore lawless acts.

“There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.” —-Thomas Sowell

For more details, there is an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about this issue: