Police chase policies differ between KC and Independence

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Independence police released the officer’s dashcam video on Tuesday that shows the series of events leading up to a fatal crash that happened Monday.

The department says it appears the officer followed proper protocol during the pursuit. Independence police pursuit policy states that officers must consciously question whether the seriousness of the circumstances or violation justifies excess speed and that the safety of the public is its highest priority.

But the decision is really up to the individual officer, as opposed to Kansas City, Missouri’s policy, which sets clear criteria the officer must follow.

But is one better than the other?

In Monday’s Independence police chase, the 22-year-old driver of a silver Saab can be clearly seen on dashcam video weaving through traffic at a high rate of speed, with an officer in pursuit.

“Got a vehicle trying to lose me here. We are at westbound 23rd approaching 435,” said the officer pursuing the suspect.

The Independence officer, aware of the surroundings on the chase, continually checks in with dispatch.

“No traffic at the moment. Traffic’s light,” the officer said over police radio.

And less than two minutes after the chase began, the officer calls it off and backs off the 22-year-old suspected driver, Andrew Stark.

“I’ve terminated pursuit,” the officer can be heard saying.

But about a half-mile ahead, Stark slams into a car, killing the 35-year-old driver, Jason Lewis and injuring two others.

Retired Kansas City police major John Hamilton said the officer did a good job.

“I would be very pleased with the fact that there was active thinking going on during this and people are not caught up in a tremendously adrenaline filled, emotional event. It’s a sensory overload when you are involved in one of those things,” said Hamilton.

But was the chase necessary? The officer chose to pursue based on a traffic violation and is allowed that decision based on his department’s policy.

“In Kansas City, Missouri that would not call for a police pursuit. Short of chasing a murderer, is somebody’s life worth that? And that becomes a philosophical question that’s hard to answer,” Hamilton said.

Attorney Sean Pickett represented the family of an innocent teenage bystander killed during a police pursuit seven years ago and says the policy needs to be changed.

“I would hope that each possible devastating injury would be a reason to change their policy and it’s unfortunate that the leaders in Independence have not yet done that on their own. Perhaps this could have been avoided,” said Pickett.

Independence police declined to comment on the chase or their chase policy on Tuesday. Last year Independence police say they were involved in a total of 68 pursuits. Twenty one of those ended in collision and only four of those involved reported injuries.

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