Los Angeles, Dec. 18 (Reuters): The brakes are about to be applied to a peculiar staple of Los Angeles life — the high-speed police chase.
An outcry over the death of a 4-year-old girl and a three-week-old baby who lost an arm during high-speed police pursuits, has forced the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to review a policy that allows officers to give chase for matters as minor as running a red traffic light. An LAPD report released yesterday gave Los Angeles the dubious distinction of leading the nation in police pursuits in 2001, with 781 car chases on the city's busy streets and teeming freeways resulting in 283 collisions and 139 injuries.
A staggering 59 per cent were started because a driver had committed a minor traffic violation — such as speeding, having a missing tail-light or ignoring a Stop sign — that are punishable only by fines.
Current policy has made the car chase, with sirens screaming and drivers fleeing, a popular staple of daily life in southern California.
Local television stations, which often break into regular programming to follow such chases, report a leap in audience figures for live helicopter coverage of the longest and most exciting pursuits — their viewers mostly unaware of the cause but mesmerised by an outcome that could be a Hollywood-style crash or even a dramatic shooting.