Questions arise over pursuit policy in wake of accident at Lambe -

Questions arise over pursuit policy in wake of accident at Lambert Airport

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Crash at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (Credit: Chris Nagus, News 4) Crash at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (Credit: Chris Nagus, News 4)

Three members of a family remain hospitalized after the car they were in was hit by a stolen SUV fleeing from a Normandy Police officer. The crash happened Tuesday at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. 

According to family members, 9-year old Caleb Lee is in critical condition with swelling on the brain. His 5-year old brother, Evan, is also at the hospital but with less serious injuries. Their mother Candace Lee is being treated for a broken pelvis and internal bleeding at another hospital. 

An aunt who was also in the car at the time of the accident said the family isn't blaming officers for causing the crash but questions whether the officer should have continued the chase when it went onto airport property.

"But the cops should have never been there and over some kids stealing a car," said Brittany Lee. 

News 4 examined the pursuit policies at the Normandy Police Department, as well as those of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, St. Louis County Police Department and the Chesterfield Police Department.

All of them stressed the need to weigh the dangers of a police pursuit versus the need to arrest a suspect who is trying to get away.
The Chesterfield written policy says, "..the anticipated results must be worth the risk. Therefore, the pursuing officer shall not consider that he must continue a chase at all costs"

The St. Louis County Police Department policy has a section on terminating pursuits and includes these instructions, "Pursuing police officer(s) should terminate pursuits when: The danger to the public or the pursuing police officer outweighs the necessity for immediate apprehension of the violator."

The St. Louis Police Department policy gives a list of examples when conditions might make a police pursuit too dangerous to continue. Some of them include: "traffic conditions, area of the city (school zones, narrow residential streets) and if the vehicle operated by a juvenile whose actions reflect a lack of appreciation of danger involved."

The Normandy Police Department policy also includes a sections that instructs officers when they should terminate a pursuit. The first reason given stresses safety and says, "Changing circumstances or conditions indicate the risk to public safety associated with continued pursuit are greater than the public safety benefit of making an immediate apprehension."

It's not known if the Normandy officer involved in the pursuit knew the three suspects in the stolen SUV were juveniles. Or if the officer planned to call off the police chase when it entered airport property but didn't have a chance before the crash happened so fast.

The St. Louis County Police Department is investigating the crash and will look at whether the Normandy Police Department's policy was followed.

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