FRESNO, California. (KSEE) The Fresno Police Department launched new pursuit policies in an effort to make the streets of Fresno safer Tuesday.
The move comes after a deadly crash following a chase downtown last week.
Chief Paco Balderrama said he wants to give officers more discretion of when to call a pursuit off and said the changes have been in the works for months.
“We have to take every factor available to us and every fact and every piece of information and weigh that against the dangers of continuing to pursue,” he said.
Last Wednesday marked the most recent chase to end in tragedy when 19-year-old Hannah Pimentel was allegedly hit and killed by 31-year-old Marc Rodriguez after a pursuit.
In March a fiery crash following a pursuit ended with one dead, and in December three family members and a suspect died after police tried to stop him for racing. Balderrama said in all cases officer had either lost the suspect or called off the pursuit.
“I do want to make it clear that in none of these events was there a member of law enforcement actively chasing the person,” he said.
Still he said he’s been working to change existing policies since he became chief months ago.
New policies include allowing other officers involved in a chase, not just the pursuing officer, to call off a pursuit if they think it’s becoming too dangerous.
Chases will now be limited to police cruisers, which Balderrama said are built for the task, unlike undercover vehicles, police transport wagons, and motorcycles which won’t be used unless absolutely necessary.
Ground units will also be instructed to back off once the Skywatch helicopter gets eyes on the suspect from the air.
District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp commended the changes and directed her comments to people like Rodriguez who is now facing murder charges.
“To think twice and to not make your life worse than it will be if you just pull over and heed to law enforcement and take care of your responsibilities as you should have in the first place,” she said.
Balderrama said this new policy will be enforced in most pursuits but said in extreme circumstances, such as trying to take in a homicide suspect, they most likely won’t be able to stick with it completely.