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Hamden PD looking to change directions on police pursuits

HAMDEN --   After a handful of incidents involving fatal accidents and a police change, the mayor and the acting police chief are recommending a change in police.

“There is no reason to risk injury or certainly to risk life over a piece of property,” said Hamden Mayor Curt Balzano Leng.

This comes after a police pursuit of a SUV on New Year’s morning ended with a deadly crash. As well as last summer Hamden police were involved in a pursuit that ended in New Haven, that was also a fatal accident.

On top of the loss of life, liability becomes a costly issue.

Every police department in the state has a pursuit policy that reflects a statewide pursuit policy. The statewide policy is a base minimum. But every department has the option to make their policy more restrictive. In Hamden, they are proposing police can only get involved in a police pursuit if the suspect is a violent felon, or extreme danger.

Mayor Leng explained the proposed change.

“Our police officers under this new policy are not going to be stopped from chasing a dangerous criminal that poses an eminent threat, they are not going to be stopped from stopping in inebriated driver or someone that’s out of control that makes their car a weapon, but it is going to stop people from chasing and creating an unsafe environment for the officer, for the pedestrian, and vehicles around, and for the person being chased if the crime is not that serious level.”

The basics of the pursuit policy in Connecticut is this, a cop can’t chase a fleeing car if the risk and danger of the police pursuit, which are very dangerous, is higher than the danger of just letting the suspect go free. Stolen cars, a larceny, typically on its own, does not meet that threshold.

“Driving at high speeds on our roads is not something that you want to do unless you need to. And sometimes you need to for safety purposes, no one’s gonna let someone go away that’s a dangerous criminal," Mayor Leng said Monday night following his budget address at town hall.

The policy has to be voted and approved by the Hamden police commission before it becomes official and the mayor said the response from the police union has been positive.

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