Robert Homant, who has taught criminal justice at the University of Detroit Mercy since 1978 and previously served as a prison psychologist for eight years, has published studies on his research of police pursuits.
work shows that the thrill of the chase often affects officers' decisions and puts them in situations where they can endanger innocent bystanders.
"There is a tendency for personality factors such as sensation seeking to affect the quickness, let us say, with which an officer pursued, broke off pursuit (or) followed policy," Homant
Some people enjoy adrenaline rushes, while other don't, Homant
Those who do are more likely to interpret possible pursuit situations as ones that warrant a chase.
"It's not as if you're going against policy, so much as you're interpreting the situation differently," Homant
"I've had officers admit to me that it was hard to break off chases that they knew they should break off.
After they broke them off, they said, 'Well, yeah I did the right thing by not pursuing further, but at the time, it was difficult to do that.' And they described it as not wanting to be beaten by the person that was eluding (them)."
Determining whether sensation seeking was a factor in an individual pursuit situation is almost impossible, Homant
Officers, though, should be trained to be aware of the adrenaline rush and how they are likely to react to it.
The key is to train officers in pursuit policy, and train them often.
"It needs to be clear what the policy is," Homant
"When you do (review policies often), most police officers are fairly good about simply following policy.
They're happy to break off pursuits, if that's what the policy is," Homant
said that new technologies, especially in well-funded agencies, have helped make many pursuits unnecessary since his
first research in the late 1980s.
High-resolution cameras can capture license-plate numbers and help identify suspects, and easy-to-access information about suspects' criminal histories helps officers catch suspects without vehicular pursuits.
Tools like stop sticks-strips of spikes that puncture tires-can stop fleeing vehicles without a pursuit.
"Those people who believe pursuits are important have alternative ways of catching people or alternative ways of stopping eluding cars other than just pursuing them and chasing them down," Homant
Access to those alternatives have lessened the need for chases since Homant
research more than 20 years ago, but for the families of the dozens of innocent victims who are killed every year in America, chases are still too common.
Densely populated urban areas often adopt stricter pursuit policies than rural areas, making it hard to get legislators and agencies to agree on a statewide policy, Homant
Policy needs to be reviewed as often as monthly, Homant
said, to assure officers' adrenaline in the heat of the moment does not cloud their interpretation of what they have learned.
believes police can reduce pursuits dramatically without an outright ban by using all the existing technologies.
The sense of urgency among many communities to prevent chases has declined over the past 20 years, mainly due to technologies reducing pursuit deaths.
That, coupled with many people's tendency to view new police technologies as "Big Brotherish," Homant
said, has slowed the move toward eliminating police chases.
Let's get this technology to all our departments,'" Homant