ST. LOUIS — Leaders for the St. Louis City and County chapters of the NAACP held a meeting on Wednesday, further calling for changes to police pursuit policies.
The local NAACP chapters are working with the Department of Justice to come up with risk reduction solutions related to these pursuits.
“If you’re going to chase somebody and you’re in an urban area, densely populated, things change and are different,” said St. Louis City NAACP president Adolphus Pruitt. “And the ability for you to harm somebody or harm yourself as an officer will be more likely than some of those other instances.”
St. Louis County NAACP president John Bowman added: “We just want to work around this issue so that we can come up with technology-style solutions with the police departments to try and resolve some of these losses of lives.”
From April 22 this year to May 9, seven people, two of which were children, lost their lives to car crashes involving drivers eluding police.
Over Mother’s Day weekend 18-year-old Marshawn Stepney was driving a stolen car attempting to flee police when he killed five members of one family. Stepney is facing 17 charges including second-degree murder.
“We’ve done a lot of studying. We’ve talked to many families. And over the years, there have been an alarming finding of innocent lives lost, especially innocent bystanders,” Bowman said.
Pruitt said getting the message to potential car thieves could make them think twice.
“This is the carnage that you can cause when you do these police chases. This is the impact that it has on these people and these families. This is what happens to life afterward, as it relates to charges sentencing long term jail time,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt and Bowman said many questions remain as they navigate what’s become a public safety issue for the state’s largest police departments in a very compact area.
“We’re looking real hard at what Washington state did. We will probably be talking to some legislators in the near future, and if we’re able to impact it at the state level, that picks up all of those municipalities and everybody else,” Pruitt said.
The chapters plan to wrap up their recommendations with the Department of Justice in the coming weeks to present to both departments.
“We’re looking at it from all sides, not just what the police can do, but we’re looking at from a public messaging and other things to try and deter some of this from happening with some of the young people out here,” Pruitt said.