Kentucky has no statewide policy on police pursuits. How are officers trained?

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RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky has no statewide policy on police pursuits.

Each department across the state can set their own guidelines. There's no statewide policy or procedure for police pursuits. (WKYT)

WKYT's investigative team began looking into the issue after a couple of police chases gone wrong, even deadly, in Central Kentucky.

On Sept. 4, Winchester police started a pursuit in Clark County, and it ended after the driver turned the wrong way onto I-75 in Fayette County.

Winchester police suspected 42-year-old Tammy Rodriguez was driving under the influence, which started the pursuit.

Three people were killed in the crash.

On Sept. 11, police in Mercer County tried to pull over David Henderson, but he drove off, topping speeds of 120 miles per hour.

Henderson would crash into recent Anderson County graduate Jill Hurst. She later died from her injuries.

WKYT sat down with the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) Commissioner Alex Payne to talk about police pursuits.

"You had better make sure it's worth it," said Payne.

"I think there are pursuits that go on consistently that probably could do with a little more monitoring," Payne said. "But some of these things, it's just unfortunate that here recently those have ended the wrong way - I mean big time - and it's just horrible."

How does an officer know when to and when not to chase? It's not an easy answer.

Each department across the state can set their own guidelines. There's no statewide policy or procedure for police pursuits.

Patrol Tactics Supervisor Shannon West's job is to train recruits on pursuits.

"We spend a lot of time with them going over the track," said West.

The DOCJT knows it can only teach recruits the mechanics of a pursuit.

"We don't deal in what-ifs. We have to deal in what we know, and that's what society is going to judge us on in terms of the aftermath of some of these catastrophic events that happen as a result of a pursuit," West said.

But it's what they can't teach that may be the hardest part: The emotional and mental impact when an officer is faced with a pursuit.

"If we cannot train them in those conditions, why are you allowing them to do it when they get out there?" said Payne.

Both said the best rule of thumb is to trust the department's supervisor. They are the only ones who can make a stable, unemotional call on whether to call off the chase or go.

"And that is that emotionally detached individual who doesn't have that siren blaring in his head, yelling over the radio, the screeching tires, all the things that officer behind the wheel is dealing with," said Payne. "This individual is detached and is just operating off of the pertinent information at the time."



 
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