Newton police explain high speed chase policy


NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) – Last weekend, Newton police got the call from the Kansas Highway Patrol to be on the lookout for a man going very fast on a motorcycle.

Newton officers found the suspect and chased him, hitting speeds of up to 120 miles-per-hour on the interstate between Newton and Wichita.

While nobody was hurt in the chase, KSN asked what the police stance was on chasing a suspect.

The Newton police chief says he has three layers in play. One, the officer doing the pursuit looks at traffic. Two, a field supervisor considers conditions like the weather, and three, as was the case this weekend, the chief himself gets in on the conversation, making sure they are getting the suspect, but also keeping the public, safe.

“As a supervisor, if I’m not in the pursuit, I can see where my units are located, which direction they are headed,” said Corporal Mike Stinger, Newton Police Department.

Corporal Stinger is one of those who can be assigned to watch a pursuit. A computer tracker shows where the pursuit is and what the traffic conditions may be on any given day. It’s one of the big reasons Newton police say they did not call off that high-speed motorcycle chase this weekend from Newton to Wichita.

Newton Police Chief Eric Murphy said “Some of the constant questions I was asking, and he was also asking, including the corporal who was involved in the pursuit, what was the traffic like?”

Chief Murphy believes his stance on chasing is a conservative one. Some of the things he watches for are no school zones, no bad weather and no heavy traffic, like rush hour.

But when they do chase, he gets an alert on his phone, like he did this weekend, where he then calls in to the supervisor, who was already monitoring the officers chasing their suspect.

Newton residents, like Rich Toevs, says he thinks chasing should be evaluated each time someone runs from officers.

“What they know about the person they are chasing,” said Toevs. “And whether they’ve posed a threat.”

But Chief Murphy says that already is one of his conditions for chasing criteria. Is the person running a threat?

“The biggest thing is, why are we chasing them?” said Murphy. “If it’s a low-level crime we are probably not going to be chasing them as far as we will somebody with a higher level crime.”

In the case of this weekend’s chase between Newton and Wichita, which ended in Wichita with the suspect being arrested, Newton police say communication was key — keeping the suspect in sight, and radioing that information ahead.

“Just because you can go fast doesn’t mean you can outrun the police but, you still can’t go faster than the radio,” said Corporal Stinger.

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