pursuits. We must make every effort to minimise the risk of
collision, injury or death in these circumstances,' said Alistair
Graham, chairman of the independent Police Complaints Authority,
fatal road traffic incidents arising out of police pursuits.
'I am most concerned that the numbers of fatalities have continued to
grow and there is no sign of them levelling off - if anything, the
latest figures show the rate is accelerating. Although this study
represents a very small sample against the overall numbers of
pursuit/follows, the conclusions are nevertheless relevant to all
similar circumstances and this research will be useful in showing a
way forward. The present situation cannot be allowed to continue and
a positive effort must be made to manage these events properly. We
appreciate that many of these pursuits only last a few minutes but
police crews and control rooms must still evaluate the risks
involved.' he said.
The PCA research report 'Fatal Pursuit' investigated 85 cases of road
traffic collisions involving police pursuits between 1998 - 2001
which resulted in 91 fatalities. The main conclusions were:
* The police made inadequate risk assessments during a
follow/pursuit and this resulted in inappropriate or badly judged
decisions. Police control room managers should have greater
involvement and should take control of the pursuit/follow.
* Communications between the officers who are in the police car
during the follow/pursuit is not satisfactory. Specialist training
in pursuit commentary is required particularly for police
* Unmarked police cars (ie not fitted with concealed warning
equipment) and convoys of police vehicles are not acceptable for
use in a follow/pursuit and should be explicitly prohibited.
* The current distinction made by police officers between
'pursuits' and 'follows' should be discontinued with immediate
effect. In the study no behavioural differences could be identified
between the events characterised in this way.
* Officers should not engage in pursuit/follows without a clear,
centrally agreed strategy for attempting to stop the fleeing
vehicle safely. There should be central control and management of
incidents and police officers' discretion to pursue/follow should
A key conclusion is that the police engage in too many pursuits that
endanger public safety and the most effective way to reduce this is
by increased management control and reduced officer discretion. It is
recognised that many such incidents are of short duration, typically
two to three minutes, making external intervention problematic.
Forces may need to consider whether officers who pursue without
control room permission, or who fail to adequately communicate risk,
or who fail to pull over when instructed to call off a chase by the
control room, should be at risk of being disciplined as a result.
'Fatal Pursuit' examined a total of 85 cases involving 91 fatalities
although 12 incidents only involved serious injuries. Most were on
quiet or almost deserted roads often on 30mph roads in towns and many
took place on Saturday or Sunday nights. The majority were classified
as pursuit/follows and the rest were emergency responses, standard
patrol incidents and officers coming off duty. In the
pursuit/follows, the speeds were higher and although the police
drivers typically had more years driving experience, they resulted in
a higher number of fatalities.
FATAL PURSUIT. Investigation of Road Traffic Incidents (RTIs)
involving police vehicles, 1998 - 2001: Identifying common factors
and the lessons to be learned.
Police Complaints Authority Research Report
The report will be available on the PCA website: www.pca.gov.uk