INDIANAPOLIS — The rules around police pursuits are changing for Indianapolis police officers in a new update to IMPD General Orders.

The “Vehicle Pursuits” section of the Indianapolis Metro Police Department’s General Orders was updated this month for the first time since August 2020. The biggest change further limits police vehicle pursuits.

“Our officers can no longer pursue cars just for being a stolen vehicle only,” said Catherine Cummings, the IMPD Deputy Chief over Training, Policy and Oversight Division.

Cummings said IMPD brought the change to the General Orders Board.

“We did that by looking at our data and past pursuits and looking at, quite frankly, crashes that have happened in the community that are happening during police pursuits,” Cummings said.

Cummings said IMPD doesn’t want people to think police don’t care about reports of stolen cars, but rather that officers are just focused on getting the car back without it being damaged. 

“What we want to ensure is that we are doing our best to get those cars back safely and not damaged,” Cummings said. “If the car is getting returned to you after it’s been crashed, it’s not of any value to you anymore anyway.”

But first and foremost, Cummings said the focus is community safety.

“Our top priority has to be to the community’s safety and preservation of life,” she said.

In July 2021, an IMPD pursuit of a stolen truck ended with the man inside the truck dying in a crash.

Under this new protocol, that type of pursuit would not be allowed.

”Pursuits are inherently dangerous and we need to limit that risk to our officers, our agency and, more importantly, to the community as a whole,” Cummings said.

IMPD said new technology will help track down stolen cars.

“We want to use our new technology, we want to use evolving practices to get your stolen cars returned to you in a safe and usable manner,” Cummings said.

Cummings did not specify what new technology would be used but we do know more cameras and license plate readers have been installed around the city recently.

IMPD also used drone technology to spot several suspects after police said they ran from their car hours after a police chase.

The new IMPD General Orders on police pursuits also says that IMPD officers will not be disciplined for declining to pursue.

”We want our officers to understand you have the autonomy to make that decision,” Cummings said. “If you have seen something that makes you feel the risks involved with this pursuit are no longer valid, you have that right, and in fact, the responsibility to terminate that pursuit.”

This new order does not end all police pursuits of a stolen vehicle. Officers can still pursue a stolen car if they believe there is additional criminal activity.

”If the officer has articulable facts and reasonable suspicion that there are additional crimes being committed in addition to the fact that car is reported stolen officers can pursue cars at that point,” Cummings said.

Cummings said with every possible police pursuit, officers have to weigh the risks of the pursuit vs. the benefit of making an arrest.

”What is the crime this person is wanted for or suspected of? What is the risk to the public that that person being out and about poses to the public versus the inherent risk that happens when there is a police pursuit?” Cummings said.

The policy went into effect earlier in May and Cummings said IMPD officers are all updated on the new protocol.