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Law Enforcement Policies: Vehicle Pursuit and Emergency Vehicle Operation

Vehicle Pursuit and Emergency Vehicle Operation Act 218, passed in 2022, updated and mandated a set of minimum standards that all law enforcement agencies must adopt and implement. The new standards, developed by the SC Law Enforcement Training Council, took effect in 2023. Departments may establish additional standards that are more restrictive, but not less restrictive.

The Association’s Risk Management Services drafted model policies for each of the standards, available for use by all cities and towns. Departments that are not SC Municipal Insurance Trust or SC Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund members should reach out to the SC Criminal Justice Academy for guidance on policy questions.

The second model policy on the list is “Vehicle Pursuit and Emergency Vehicle Operation.” The policy states that while a police department has a responsibility to apprehend criminals, it also has a “higher responsibility to protect and foster the safety” of everyone who encounters police vehicles engaged in a pursuit. It requires officers who may enter into a pursuit to consider the risks to themselves and others as well as other actors. The procedure includes these steps:

Initiating the pursuit

Engaging in a pursuit would require that officers have a reasonable suspicion that a driver or passenger has committed a violent felony, and that “there is evidence of outrageous, reckless driving,” which began before the officer entered a pursuit.

Pursuit restrictions

The policy names numerous restrictions on pursuits. Among other rules, they state that only a total of two vehicles may engage in a pursuit without supervisor authorization, and once the pursuit begins it may only continue with authorization from a supervisor. The supervisor must give approval for any roadblocks or tire deflation devices, as well as “boxing-in” methods. Pursuing officers may not ram the fleeing vehicle or drive immediately
alongside it.

Environmental considerations

The policy requires that officers in a pursuit engage in “a continuous evaluation” of several factors, including the time of day and week, road and traffic conditions, the speed and conditions of the vehicles, and the officer’s driving abilities.

Responsibilities of officials

This includes the responsibility of the primary and secondary vehicle driver, the supervisor and the communications center. For the primary driver, it includes receiving approval, activating warning devices, giving specific notifications and updates, and discontinuing the pursuit in certain circumstances.

Use of force and termination of pursuit

This portion addresses when the officer may use firearms and seek approval for roadblocks or other devices. 

Reasons for discontinuation of pursuit

This could be by order, because of excessive danger, when the fleeing vehicle’s location becomes unknown or when those not involved suffer an accident.

The policy also gives rules for pursuits involving multiple agencies or jurisdictions, a report-and-review process and ongoing training.

Learn more about the policies online.