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Some cities around the country are changing policies for law enforcement foot pursuits in an effort to reduce injuries for both officers and suspects.

In 2014, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office chased a man fleeing a traffic stop in a high-speed chase through the heart of Idaho Falls. Justin Crosby, then 23, had a warrant for failure to appear in court.

When Crosby saw deputies approaching him, he fled in a stolen vehicle on East 17th Street with law enforcement in pursuit.

Both the sheriff’s office and Idaho Falls Police Department determined the officers should not have chased Crosby, however, due to the risk posed to the public.

“The risk to the public, the fact that we were close to the lunch hour, the heavy traffic, the fact that (the pursuit) went into the downtown area; those issues could have been avoided if (the deputy) terminated the pursuit early,” Sheriff’s Office Capt. Samuel Hulse said in a report following an investigation of the chase.

Law enforcement officers are required to consider the safety of the public, themselves and the suspect during vehicle pursuits. When it comes to foot pursuits, however, officers often chase fleeing suspects without back-up.

Studies of recent policy changes at police departments that have changed foot pursuit policies to encourage officers to wait for backup before engaging in a foot chase show that doing so reduces the likelihood of injuries to both law enforcement and the suspects.

Last year, Jesse Quinton was shot and killed after he attempted to strangle an Idaho State Police trooper who had pursued him on foot after Quinton ran away while being questioned following a traffic stop.

Quinton was stopped for going 32 mph in a 25 zone, and fled on foot when the trooper Andrew Francis said he smelled marijuana.

When Quinton fled on foot in the dark of the night near the railroad tracks adjacent to Northgate Mile, Francis gave chase. But as Francis closed ground on the suspect, Quinton stopped and engaged him in a physical fight.

An investigation concluded Quinton was at fault for the incident, having refused multiple instructions from Francis. The trooper made several attempts to free himself from Quinton’s grip before using his gun. Quinton did not have a history of violence and investigators concluded his behavior may have been influenced by drugs in his system.

Francis was alone during the foot pursuit that resulted in his injuries and Quinton’s death.

Another incident of an officer being injured while pursuing a suspect alone happened in December. An Idaho Falls Police Department officer was pursuing Nickolas Arguello, a man known for resisting arrest who faked compliance to escape.

During the foot pursuit, the officer accidentally stunned himself while holstering his Taser. Though another officer was on the way, he did not have immediate backup. He wrote in his report he was initially unable to radio for help.

The Idaho Falls Police Department does not have a set policy for when officers on foot should pursue a fleeing suspect, instead relying on its policies on use of force and officer discretion.

“There are many factors that play into whether or not an officer engages in a foot pursuit, including the risk the suspect poses to the public, the information available at the time and officer safety,” Idaho Falls Police Department Spokeswoman Jessica Clements said in an email. “These all have to be considered in a split second.”

“Officers are encouraged to use discretion and their professional judgment to consider the information available to them in the moment to determine whether or not to engage in a foot pursuit.”

Nationwide, some law enforcement offices have begun rethinking their policies on foot pursuits.

In Sacramento, Calif., the police department changed its policies last year after a foot pursuit ended with an officer shooting and killing Stephon Clark after mistaking Clark’s phone for a gun. The Sacramento Police Department also cited injuries to police officers during foot pursuits.

“It’s natural to start chasing someone when they’re running away from you when they’ve committed a crime or are suspected of committing a crime,” Plumas County Sheriff’s Deputy and use of force expert Ed Obayashi told the Sacramento Bee in 2018. “That’s just instinct. But the idea here with these policies is to better guide officers in making that decision. Is it worth it to chase this person?”

Similar changes at the Las Vegas Metro Police Department discouraged, but did not ban, officers from foot pursuits of suspects when they are alone or when the suspects are armed. Las Vegas police officials also added a rule that an officer who initiates a pursuit should not be the first person to lay hands on the suspect, and should instead call for backup.

John Jay College Professor Phillip Atiba Goff studied the changes in Las Vegas and found a 23 percent decrease in use of force by officers and an 11 percent decrease in officer injuries after the new policies were implemented.

The policy changes made by the Sacramento Police Department already resemble those in place at the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office and Idaho Falls Police Department in that it relies on officers to weigh the risks.

“Our current policy is in keeping with the standards that are out there,” Hulse said. He said the sheriff’s office regularly reviews its policies through Lexipol, a company that helps law enforcement officers keep track of trends and legal changes involving law enforcement.

Hulse said that, for him, the act of fleeing or otherwise resisting arrest is by its nature a violent act.

“It’s not appropriate for us to walk away from it as peace officers,” Hulse said.

Hulse said the rules are similar to those applied in vehicle pursuits. In car chases, however, there’s more threat to the community.

“Just to chase somebody to chase somebody, you don’t want to do that,” Hulse said.

Hulse said it may be appropriate to end a foot pursuit if law enforcement knows the suspect and their address.

Clements said in a perfect world, there would always be two officers present at a traffic stop or incident.

“(T)his is a big town with a lot of calls for service. There are times when the first officer arrives on scene and starts an interaction before a second officer has arrived,” Clements said.

“On the other hand, I have seen many calls where officers do wait for additional officers to arrive because they feel that is the best way to handle the situation safely.”

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Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.