After James Harper, an unarmed kidnapping suspect, was killed by a police officer in July 2012, police Chief David Brown committed to reforming the way his department would chase suspects on foot. Brian Rowden, the officer who shot Harper, had ended up chasing Harper alone after Harper and three other suspects in the kidnapping scattered in different directions. Exhausted, Rowden ended up in a fight with Harper, during which, the officer said, Harper threatened his life. Rowden said Harper reached his pocket, for what Rowden thought was a gun, so Rowden shot Harper twice. Harper did not have a gun.
Changes to the policy made after Harper's death included officers being directed to chase only one suspect should multiple suspects head in different directions, for officers to stop pursuit if they became too exhausted to arrest a suspect after the suspect was caught and for officers not to chase a known suspect. If officers knew the suspects identity, he or she could easily be caught later, the thinking went. Monday afternoon, Brown will notify the City Council's public safety committee of DPD's rolling back some of the changes.
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The new, looser policy will give cops greater autonomy to make decisions in the field. Under the previous guidelines, if multiple officers had multiple suspects detained and one or more suspects took off, the cops could only give chase if there more officers than people already arrested. Now, officers can give chase as long as they feel the remaining suspects can be controlled by the officers on hand.
Additionally, cops will be able chase suspects they've already identified. The section of the policy ordering cops to stop pursuits when they are exhausted will also be removed.