All Things Considered

Dangerous high-speed chases the focus of new Minnesota police pursuit policy

Crashed vehicle
The scene of a multi-car collision at the intersection of Memorial Parkway Southwest and 12th Street Southwest, just north of Apache Mall, on May 18, 2024.
Maya Giron | Post Bulletin

The Olmsted County Attorney has brought charges against a State Patrol trooper for his role in a crash that killed 18-year-old Olivia Flores back in May. The trooper, Shane Roper, was pursuing a vehicle for a petty traffic offense when he entered an intersection at 83 miles per hour and struck two vehicles — he didn’t have his emergency lights on.

How and when law enforcement agencies conduct dangerous, high-speed pursuits has garnered the attention of many in recent years, especially after another innocent bystander, Leneal Frazier, died in a 2021 crash. 

That led to a working group on pursuit policy. Now, there’s a new model pursuit policy from the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (or POST Board). Erik Misselt, the board’s executive director, explained the new policy on MPR News’ All Things Considered with host Tom Crann.  

The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. Click on the audio player above to hear the interview.

Before we get into what the model policy actually says, I want to ask you why you call it a model policy?  

Misselt: Model policies are ones that are required, usually through statute. So we’re tasked with putting the policy together and then sending it out to agencies who then have to adopt a same or similar policy.

So it doesn’t have to be identical, but it needs to do the same things

Correct. Each agency has some leeway to customize to a certain extent. They can be more restrictive — and many are — and this goes for all the model policies promulgated by POST. 

I understand that the policy was recently updated. How would you characterize the changes that were made to it?

We had an entire working group: folks from the University of Minnesota who have done research in this area, practitioners, pursuit driving instructors. They took a deep dive and made sure everything was up to current standards and best practices. 

The new policy says officers should consider ending pursuits if they are for nonviolent offenses. Is that new?

Well, there’s always been a “due regard standard” involved with pursuits. This is a little bit more definitive in that it clearly says that is one of the factors the officer has to consider in containing a pursuit. 

When you compare the two, the first seems to be more deferential to the officer and their judgment. Would you say that that’s a fair assessment?

I would say that the original policy was, I believe, written back in 2011. So the policy was long overdue, and it’s certainly no surprise to anyone that conditions have changed. There have been very high profile incidents across the country since then. Due regard, conditions of traffic, severity of the offense, those were always factors that were to be considered. But I think this policy makes them quite a bit more clear.

What about the issue of having the emergency lights activated when pursuing someone through a crowded area? What does the policy say about that?

If you’re going to enforce, let’s say, the violation of fleeing a police officer, you have to be giving some sort of notice that you’re trying to stop the vehicle. So that’s point one. Now that said, as far as emergency lighting and sirens for pursuits, it’s pretty clear those are expected to be on unless there’s other circumstances. For example, a silent response to an armed robbery in progress or bank robbery in progress, you may only have lights and not siren and there’s leeway to do that.

The state trooper charged in the crash in Olmsted County reportedly had a ride along passenger. Does the policy say anything about how to approach pursuits in that scenario?

Individual agencies will have policies on that. And then this particular case, that would be a the State Patrol policy specifically.

So tell us, in general, with this newer policy, how are you approaching the training when it comes to pursuits?

There has always been an emergency vehicle operation or pursuit training — and both when new candidates are becoming officers — and also from a continuing education standpoint. Every currently licensed officer has to have that training at least once every five years.