HARRISONVILLE, Mo. — To chase or not to chase?
High-speed pursuits are one of the most dangerous decisions law enforcement officers face.
Proposed legislation in Missouri would make leading police on hazardous chases a more serious offense.
Police complain more criminals are resisting arrest, and leading them on perilous chases, which put the public in harm’s way.
Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber said last Friday is a prime example, as his deputies were led on three pursuits in just over an hour. Weber said it’s not uncommon to see multiple chases involving suspects each day.
On Wednesday, Weber will speak to legislators in Jefferson City, supporting Missouri House Bill 251. That proposed bill will make leading police on a chase a felony. As it stands, Missouri laws hold that as a misdemeanor.
“These are prior persistent offenders that their illegitimate job is committing crime and victimizing the community every day,” Weber said on Tuesday.
Weber supports a minimum one-year jail sentence for anyone leading police on a dangerous chase. Cass County’s policy is to pursue fleeing suspects, but to use strong discretion in doing so. In 1995, Cass County Deputy Kevin Mayse was killed while chasing a suspect.
“If we’re not going to chase these dangerous people, we’re letting them go to do it over and over again. We want to strengthen the law to minimize the risk of that flight, to minimize the risk to the public,” Sheriff Weber said.
Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte, who was previous Kansas City police chief, said he supports this legislation in spirit, but felony charges sometimes depend on what the suspect did leading up to the chase.
“There needs to be some discretion involved. I have concerns about it being treated as a felony every time,” Forte told FOX4.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Department has invested in technology to help them chase criminals safely. Weber believes classifying this crime as a misdemeanor is meaningless, because criminals know it’s one of the first charges dropped when court cases regarding serious charges unfold.