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Hamden taking the lead in changing police pursuit policy

HAMDEN --  With police pursuits becoming more prominent due in large part to the rash of stolen cars statewide, local departments are looking at their pursuit policies.

One of the communities that hopes to soon make a change and reduce the number of pursuits they engage in is Hamden.

Last August, Hamden police pursued a vehicle all the way into New Haven, where the car crashed and a 24-year-old passenger was killed. Then, on New Year’s morning, a stolen SUV out of New Britain was chased down Dixwell Avenue before a vicious crash that killed a 25-year-old pass passenger.

“I think anytime there is an incident that creates a death or that create serious injury it really needs to be looked at,” said Michael Iezzi, Chairman, of the Hamden Police Commission.

“Both former Chief Wydra and I think (Acting) Chief (John)!Cappiello and I have been having conversations about this the last couple of years,” said Mayor Curt Leng (D-Hamden)

The way Hamden’s police pursuit policy is written now, “it means we can chase somebody who has committed a felony,” said Cappiello.

That could mean anything from an assault or stolen vehicles. But, there’s a danger in pursuing those vehicles, the acting chief said.

“They’re (pursuits) perpetrated by young juveniles and young adults. Inexperienced drivers and, to me, it’s it’s a recipe for disaster for us,” Cappiello said.

“When you look at it you’re chasing one car compared to the many cars that are on the street and other people's lives are involved,” said Tracey Russell, a woman who just finished shopping at Hamden’s Walmart.

The revised policy could go before the Hamden Police Commission at their April 10 meeting.

“I have discussed with Mayor Leng to have the opportunity for the commission to bring in an outside counsel someone, who is very very well-trained in this area,” said Iezzi.

For those who think fewer pursuits will lead to fewer arrests.

“We have license plate readers that are constantly scanning. We are installing cameras in different parts of town,” said Leng.

So, Hamden is looking to implement a policy that limits their cops to engaging violent felons, who have committed crimes against people, not property.

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