Bailing on high-speed chases: A safer change of pace?

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CARCHASEThere was a highly unusual ending to a televised car chase in L.A. County yesterday…police let the driver get away.

The chase began in Altadena around 5 p.m. and ended almost three hours later in Pasadena. Before police called off the pursuit, the driver had circled through L.A. County freeways, at times going more than 100 miles an hour.

Pasadena Police Lt. Jason Clawson says officers were concerned that the chase could lead to a crash after the suspect exited the freeway and drove onto surface streets.

“We know who he is and public safety outweighed capturing him,” Clawson said. “We’ll get him.”

The suspect has been identified as an Altadena man wanted on suspicion of making criminal threats.

Safety experts are hoping the decision to let the suspect escape is evidence of a changing attitude by police agencies about the risks and rewards of car chases.

Tesla_crash_LA-1024x577The decision to stop the pursuit comes just a few days after a Los Angeles Times analysis found that bystanders were injured in car chases conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department at nearly twice the rate of other police agencies.

Between 2006 and 2014, 334 bystanders were injured — one for every 10 LAPD pursuits. Nine bystanders were killed during that period.

Safety experts say the LAPD and other police agencies often needlessly endanger bystanders by chasing suspects being sought for relatively minor offenses.