General Order 4.1

Last Revised: 03-01-2017


This order consists of the following numbered sections:

4.1.1    Vehicular pursuits

4.1.2    Use of the PIT maneuver

4.1.3    Unauthorized practices

4.1.1 Vehicular pursuits

I.    Policy

The Olympia Police Department controls emergency responses and vehicular pursuits to provide maximum safety to the public and the officers involved. Within these constraints, officers may use emergency response to apprehend certain offenders or to take action in certain life-threatening situations to provide a maximum reasonable deterrent to serious criminal behavior.

Olympia Police officers have the responsibility and the authority to attempt to overtake and stop violators/suspects. If, however, there is a clear intention to avoid arrest by using a vehicle to flee, the officer must resort to other methods of apprehension. Contacts with traffic violators or suspect vehicles do not escalate into pursuits merely because a violator/suspect will not stop.

Extreme situations may require officers to deviate from this policy while taking life-saving action (see 1.3.1[H]).

II.    Definitions

A.    Vehicular pursuit: A vehicular pursuit occurs when a police vehicle is used in an active attempt to apprehend a suspect who is taking deliberate evasive action in a vehicle to avoid complying with an order to yield.

B.    Order to yield: An order to yield, in the context of emergency vehicle operation, is the use of emergency lights or emergency lights and siren to signal the operator of a vehicle to stop the vehicle (RCW 46.61.021).

C.    Vehicular intervention: Vehicular intervention is a technique in which an emergency vehicle is used to physically contact a fleeing vehicle in such a manner as to disable the fleeing vehicle.

D.    Termination of pursuit: An authorized pursuit is terminated either when the subject vehicle involved has stopped, or when the pursuing officer ceases the pursuit intentionally by disengaging emergency equipment, obeying all traffic laws, and notifying TCOMM of the pursuit termination.

III.    Pursuit authorization

A.    The issuance of an order to yield by activating a police vehicle’s emergency lights (or lights and siren) is the application of a cooperative control on the continuum of force. When a decision is made to initiate a vehicular pursuit, the potential for serious injury or death to the suspect, pursuing officers, and/or the public greatly increases. The decision to escalate an order to yield into a pursuit should be made with the same care as any other application of potentially deadly force.

B.    Vehicular pursuits are authorized when there is reasonable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a felony crime against a person and where it can be articulated that there is continuing danger to the public if the suspect is permitted to flee.

C.    Pursuits may also be authorized in the following circumstances:

1.    To assist an outside agency, on request, if approved by a supervisor and consistent with Department policy.

2.    To respond to a situation not covered in this policy that requires such extreme action, if approved by a supervisor.

D.    When authorized, vehicular pursuits are to adhere to the following guidelines:

1.    The primary pursuing unit notifies TCOMM of details of the event on initiating a pursuit.

2.    When available, the Opticom system is used to clear the path of a pursuit.

3.    All other responding units identify themselves.

4.    The supervisor is responsible for immediately monitoring and controlling a pursuit. The supervisor may call off any pursuit that does not comply with Department policy or that, in his/her opinion, exceeds reasonable limits with regard to the safety of persons.

5.    RCW 46.61.035 specifies that, in emergency situations, drivers of authorized emergency vehicles are exempt from certain specified “rules of the road” when responding to emergency calls or when in the pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law. The exemptions granted apply only when the vehicle is making use of visual signals meeting the requirements of RCW 46.37.190.

6.    No driver of an authorized emergency vehicle is relieved of the obligation to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons, nor is an officer protected from the consequences of reckless disregard for the safety of others.

7.    Officers using emergency response must continually question whether the seriousness of the incident reasonably warrants continuation of the pursuit response tactic. Emergency driving is immediately discontinued when, in the officer’s opinion, there is a clear and present danger to the public or the officer that outweighs the necessity of an arrest. Among the factors officers consider in making decisions to use or continue emergency driving are the following:

a.    Speed

b.    Weather

c.    Time of day

d.    Condition of the roadway

e.    Other traffic

f.    Familiarity with the area

g.    The nature of the area

h.    Performance characteristics of the involved vehicles

8.    A supervisor responds immediately to the termination point of a pursuit to control police action at the scene and to ensure adherence to Department policies and procedures.

9.    The officer initiating a pursuit includes in his/her report articulation of the specific criteria on which the decision to pursue was based, i.e. the two elements described in 4.1.1 (III.B).

10.    The responding supervisor documents a pursuit in the RMS use of force module and notifies the patrol lieutenant after each pursuit. The information entered into the RMS about the pursuit will include, but is not limited to, the following:

a.    The date and time of the pursuit

b.    The length of the pursuit

c.    The involved units and officers

d.    Other agencies involved (if any)

e.    The reason for the pursuit

f.    The disposition (e.g., arrest, citation, etc.)

g.    Any medical treatment needed

h.    Any damage to City or private property

i.    The reason for authorizing a pursuit pursuant to 4.1.1 (III.C), if applicable.

11.    The patrol lieutenant (or designee) immediately notifies the Chief of Police and the Public Information Officer of any fatal or potentially fatal accident that occurs as a direct result of a pursuit in which Department officers participated.

12.    The procedures regarding vehicular pursuits apply to Department officers in all pursuit situations.

4.1.2 Use of the PIT maneuver

The PIT maneuver is authorized under the following conditions:

I.    During an authorized pursuit involving a felony crime against a person, where no other option exists to stop the vehicle, and when delaying the apprehension of the offender would pose greater risk to public safety than the likely consequences of executing the maneuver.

II.    When approved by a supervisor under other extreme circumstances involving imminent danger to public safety.

4.1.3 Unauthorized practices

I.    Involving more than three units in a pursuit, unless approved by a supervisor.

II.    Caravanning of vehicles, including either paralleling or joining the pursuit, unless approved by a supervisor.

III.    Using vehicular intervention techniques other than the PIT maneuver.

IV.    Using physical road blocks. (Note: this does not include approved vehicle disabling devices.)

V.    Driving the wrong way on a freeway or one-way street.

VI.    Initiating a pursuit of violators/suspects in the following situations:

A.    Traffic violations

B.    Misdemeanor crimes

C.    Non-violent felony crimes

D.    Suicidal or mentally ill individuals who represent no imminent demonstrable threat to the lives of others.

VII.    Using emergency driving techniques to “keep a suspect in sight” without initiating an authorized pursuit.

VIII.    Using motorcycles or unmarked vehicles in pursuits.

IX.    Joining in outside agency pursuits which come into Olympia, unless authorized by a supervisor (see 4.1.1[III.C]).

X.    Participating in, or initiating pursuits outside the City, unless authorized by a supervisor.

XI.    Continuing a pursuit beyond the boundaries of Thurston County, unless authorized by a supervisor.