New Jersey Police Vehicular Pursuit Policy
Issued December 1985
Revised January 1993
Revised September 1999
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developing the policy revisions issued in 1993, the New Jersey Task
Force on Police Vehicular Pursuit Policy was mindful of the requirement
that such a policy appropriately weigh a police officer's sworn
duty to apprehend lawbreakers with the obligation to protect life
and the public safety. Throughout the process, each member of the
Task Force worked conscientiously to reach a consensus in this area
of critical importance.
1993 policy revision significantly broadened the scope of the 1985
guidelines. The Task Force was particularly cognizant of the important
role played by police supervisors in the implementation of any pursuit
policy. Police supervisors occupy a pivotal role in assessing the
degree of risk inherent in any pursuit and in properly balancing
that risk against the need to apprehend a fleeing offender. The
1993 policy outlined the responsibility of police supervisors to
manage and control pursuit activity. The 1999 policy revision provides
law enforcement agencies with the discretion to use authorized tire
deflation devices during vehicular pursuits.
Task Force was convinced early on that any sound vehicular pursuit
policy is necessarily based on complete and accurate information
about pursuit incidents. In order to ensure that such information
is continually available, the policy requires that all law enforcement
officers engaged in pursuit incidents file a pursuit incident report.
The Task Force did not take lightly the imposition of another reporting
requirement. It did, however, strongly believe that the risks and
potential consequences inherent in the conduct of vehicular pursuits
are such that this measure is warranted. The Task Force considered
the entire range of incidents for which police officers are now
required to file formal reports and concluded that vehicular pursuits
would rank among the most critical on any such list.
Task Force strongly believed that the value of its efforts will
ultimately be determined by the manner in which this policy is implemented.
Successful implementation will be a direct result of the effort
invested to train and inform police officers about the policy's
content. Toward that end, the policy requires that all police officers
attend in-service vehicular pursuit training twice a year.
Task Force knew that the policy had to provide specific guidance
as to the conditions under which the initiation of pursuits should
be authorized. Some of the most difficult issues considered by the
Task Force arose as it dealt with this key portion of the policy.
The Task Force readily concluded that the severity of 1st and 2nd
degree crimes was such that law enforcement officers should have
the discretion to pursue, but the appropriate course of action was
not so quickly apparent with respect to some other offenses.
question of how to deal with the 3rd degree offense of car theft
is complex and not susceptible to easy resolution. While the Task
Force found that the majority of pursuits statewide were for motor
vehicle offenses, a number of pursuits undertaken during the three
year period reviewed were pursuits of stolen cars. Task Force members
were also aware that tragic consequences have occurred over the
same period as a result of some stolen car pursuits. Such tragedies,
no matter how infrequent, certainly militate against authorizing
the pursuit of car thieves. Nonetheless, car theft is a particularly
egregious problem in our society at the present time. Not only has
car theft become epidemic in some of our communities, but experience
has shown that it is often the prelude to the commission of more
serious violent crime. We would not, by a blanket prohibition of
such pursuits, want to send a false signal to would-be car thieves
that they can go about their illegal business with impunity.
is no simple, guaranteed correct answer to this policy question.
The Task Force believed that in the final analysis, pursuit of stolen
cars, like other serious crimes, must be left to the discretion
of the police officer. Of course, the policy makes it clear that
if there are other viable means to apprehend a car thief, or if
there is a fair likelihood that the car thief can and will be apprehended
within a reasonable future time, or if the risks involved in the
pursuit are simply too substantial, then a vehicular pursuit should
be avoided. Also, it should be clear that this policy is not meant
to imply that prolonged pursuit should be a routine response to
joy riding if such a situation could be reasonably determined in
advance of the pursuit. As is so often true with difficult law enforcement
issues, an oversimplified and quick response to a complex problem
does not often serve the best interests of either the police or
the public. It is the consensus of the Task Force that pursuits
of stolen automobiles, as with all other pursuits, should be avoided
whenever possible. However, the Task Force also believes that relying
on the combined judgement of police officers and police supervisors
will sufficiently safeguard the public.
JERSEY POLICE VEHICULAR PURSUIT POLICY
primary purpose of this policy is to secure a balance between the
protection of the lives and safety of the public and police officers,
and law enforcement's duty to enforce the law and apprehend violators.
Since there are numerous situations which arise in law enforcement
that are unique, it is impossible for this policy or any standard
operating procedure to anticipate all possible circumstances. Therefore,
this policy is intended to guide a police officer's discretion in
matters of vehicular pursuit.
policy has been formulated to provide minimum statewide requirements
to direct law enforcement activities in this very critical area
of police practice. However, police department size, population
density and other characteristics vary among communities in this
state. Therefore, county and local law enforcement agencies are
expected to develop individual standard operating procedures which
account for departmental variations, yet are consistent with this
whether to pursue a motor vehicle is among the most critical decisions
made by law enforcement officers. It is a decision which must be
made quickly and under difficult, often unpredictable circumstances.
In recognition of the potential risk to public safety created by
vehicular pursuits, no officer or supervisor shall be criticized
or disciplined for a decision not to engage in a vehicular pursuit
or to terminate an ongoing vehicular pursuit based on the risk involved,
even in circumstances where this policy would permit the commencement
or continuation of the pursuit. Likewise, police officers who conduct
pursuits consistent with this policy will be strongly supported
by the law enforcement community in any subsequent review of such
Authorized Tire Deflation Device:
A device designed and intended to produce a controlled deflation
of one or more tires of a pursued vehicle, and capable of operation
consistent with criteria established in this policy.
The surrounding of a violator's moving vehicle with moving pursuit
vehicles which are then slowed to a stop along with the violator's
A road which includes a physical barrier between traffic traveling
in opposite directions.
Heading Off: An attempt to terminate a pursuit by pulling
ahead of, behind or toward a violator's moving vehicle to force
it to the side of the road or to otherwise come to a stop.
Law Enforcement Officer:
Any person sworn to uphold the laws of the State of New Jersey,
and who is certified by the Police Training Commission or whose
training has included Pursuit/Emergency Driving, and who is currently
employed by a public safety agency.
Driving a police vehicle on a street parallel to a street on which
a pursuit is occurring.
A deliberate offensive tactic by one or more patrol vehicles to
drive alongside the pursued vehicle while it is in motion.
Pursuit driving is an active attempt by a law enforcement officer
operating a motor vehicle and utilizing emergency warning lights
and an audible device to apprehend one or more occupants of another
moving vehicle when the officer reasonably believes that the driver
of the fleeing vehicle is aware of the officer's attempt to stop
the vehicle and is resisting apprehension by increasing vehicle
speed, ignoring the officer or otherwise attempting to elude the
The police vehicle that initiates a pursuit or any unit that assumes
control of the pursuit as the lead vehicle (the first police vehicle
immediately behind the fleeing suspect).
Any police vehicle which becomes involved as a backup to the primary
unit and follows the primary unit at a safe distance.
A restriction or obstruction used or intended for the purpose of
preventing free passage of motor vehicles on a roadway in order
to effect the apprehension of a violator.
Avenue of Escape:
A gap in a roadblock which requires the violator to decrease the
vehicle's speed to permit the violator to bypass the roadblock.
A motor vehicle, often a law enforcement vehicle, which is placed
perpendicular to a roadway or angled in such a way as to create
A police officer who, by virtue of rank or assignment, is responsible
for the direction or supervision of the activities of other police
Vehicle Contact Action:
Any action undertaken by the pursuing officer intended to result
in contact between the moving police vehicle and the pursued vehicle.
Violator: Any person who a police officer reasonably believes:
(1) has committed an offense of the first or second degree or an
offense enumerated in Appendix A of this policy, or (2) poses an
immediate threat to the safety of the public or other police officers.
DECIDING WHETHER TO PURSUE
officer has the authority, at all times, to attempt the stop of
any person suspected of having committed any criminal offense or
traffic violation. It is clear that while it is the officer who
initiates the stop, it is the violator who initiates the pursuit.
The officer's decision to pursue should always be undertaken with
an awareness of the degree of risk to which the law enforcement
officer exposes himself and others. The officer must weigh the need
for immediate apprehension against the risk created by the pursuit.
Authorization to Pursue
A police officer may only pursue
When the officer reasonably believes that the violator has committed
an offense of the first or second degree, or an offense enumerated
in Appendix A of this policy, or
When a police officer reasonably believes that the violator poses
an immediate threat to the safety of the public or other police
Pursuit for motor vehicle offenses is not authorized under the above
criteria unless the violator's vehicle is being operated so as to
pose an immediate threat to the safety of another person.
In the event that one of the authorization requirements is satisfied,
a pursuit should not be automatically undertaken. An officer must
still consider the following factors:
Likelihood of successful apprehension.
Whether the identity of the violator is known to the point where
later apprehension is possible.
Degree of risk created by pursuit
Volume, type, speed and direction of vehicular traffic.
Nature of the area: residential, commercial, school zone, open highway,
Population density and volume of pedestrian traffic
Environmental factors such as weather and darkness
Road conditions: construction, poor repair, extreme curves, ice,
Police Officer characteristics
Familiarity with roads
Condition of police vehicle
Terminating the pursuit
The pursuing officer shall terminate the pursuit
If instructed to do so by a supervisor, or
b. If the officer believes that the danger to the pursuing officers
or the public outweighs the necessity for immediate apprehension
of the violator, or
If the violator's identity is established to the point where later
apprehension may be accomplished and where there is no immediate
threat to the safety of the public or police officers, or
If the pursued vehicle's location is no longer known or the distance
between the pursuing vehicles and the violator's vehicle becomes
so great that further pursuit is futile, or
If there is a person injured during the pursuit and there are no
police or medical personnel able to render assistance, or
If there is a clear and unreasonable danger to the police officer
or the public. A clear and unreasonable danger exists when the pursuit
requires that the vehicle be driven at excessive speeds or in any
other manner which exceeds the performance capabilities of the pursuing
vehicles or police officers involved in a pursuit, or
If advised of any unanticipated condition, event or circumstance
which substantially increases the risk to public safety inherent
in the pursuit.
ROLE OF THE PURSUING OFFICER
The decision to initiate and/or continue a pursuit requires weighing
the need to immediately apprehend the violator against the degree
of risk to which the officer and others are exposed as a result
of the pursuit.
Upon the commencement of a pursuit, the pursuing officer will immediately
activate emergency lights, audible device and headlights.
Once the pursuit has been initiated, the primary unit must notify
communications and a superior officer providing as much of the following
information as is known:
Reason for the pursuit.
Direction of travel, designation and location of roadway.
Identification of the violator's vehicle: year, make, model, color,
vehicle registration number and other identifying characteristics.
Number of occupants.
The speed of the pursued vehicle.
Other information that may be helpful in terminating the pursuit
or resolving the incident.
VEHICULAR PURSUIT RESTRICTIONS
No pursuits will be conducted
In a direction opposite to the flow of traffic on a divided highway.
In a police vehicle in which an individual who is not a law enforcement
officer is either the driver or passenger.
No more than two police vehicles (primary unit and secondary unit)
shall become actively involved in a pursuit unless otherwise specifically
directed by a supervisor.
A motorcycle officer may initiate a pursuit, but will relinquish
primary unit status immediately upon the participation of a marked
An unmarked police vehicle will not participate in a vehicular pursuit
unless it is equipped with an emergency light and an audible device.
The unmarked car shall relinquish primary unit status immediately
upon the participation of a marked vehicle.
To diminish the likelihood of a pursuit, a police officer intending
to stop a vehicle for any violation of the law shall, when possible
and without creating a threat to public safety, close the distance
between the two vehicles prior to activating emergency lights and
an audible device.
Throughout the course of a vehicular pursuit, pursuing officers
shall not attempt to overtake or pass the violator's moving vehicle.
Upon approaching an intersection controlled by traffic signals or
signs, or any other location at which there is a substantially increased
likelihood of collision, the operator of any pursuit vehicle shall,
prior to entering the intersection, reduce the vehicle's speed and
control the vehicle so as to avoid collision with another vehicle
or a pedestrian. The officer shall observe that the way is clear
before cautiously proceeding through the intersection.
Officers involved in a pursuit will not engage in vehicle paralleling.
There shall be no street paralleling along the route unless the
pursuit passes through a patrol's assigned area. A patrol that is
parallel-street-pursuing shall not join or interfere with a pursuit,
and shall stop all pursuit-related activity at the boundary of its
Boxing in or heading off a violator's moving vehicle is permitted
only under extraordinary circumstances. These tactics substantially
increase the risk inherent in the pursuit and shall only be employed:
At low speeds, and
2. With the approval of a supervisor, or
In response to an imminent threat to the safety of the public or
a police officer.
Roadblocks must only be employed as a last resort in circumstances
where deadly force would otherwise be justified.
The use of a roadblock must be authorized by a supervisor.
At no time will a roadblock be established until all pursuing police
vehicles are made aware of the roadblock and its location and have
acknowledged this awareness.
Once a roadblock has been established and a vehicle or barricade
has been positioned in the roadway, there shall be:
adequate distance to see the roadblock
b. an avenue of escape
no one in the blocking vehicle(s).
Officers involved in a pursuit shall not fire any weapon from or
at a moving vehicle nor engage in any vehicle contact action except
as a last resort to prevent imminent death or serious injury to
the officer or another person where deadly force would otherwise
AUTHORIZED TIRE DEFLATION DEVICES
Law enforcement agencies may choose to utilize authorized tire deflation
devices during the course of a vehicular pursuit. Agencies which
choose to employ this strategy may only utilize devices authorized
by this policy. As with all operational decisions made during the
conduct of a vehicular pursuit, the use of such devices is subject
to the assessment of inherent risk balanced against the need to
apprehend a fleeing offender.
To be authorized for deployment and use under the vehicular pursuit
policy, the tire deflation device must:
Be capable of producing a controlled deflation of one or more tires
of a pursued vehicle;
2. Be capable of being placed in the roadway before activation and
driven over by other traffic without causing damage to the vehicles;
Be capable of being activated immediately before the pursued vehicle
drives over it, and deactivated immediately after the pursued vehicle
drives over it;
Allow the officer to remain a safe distance from the roadway at
the time of activation; and
Be capable of remaining in the roadway after activation and deactivation
without causing damage to any vehicles.
Prior to the deployment and use of an authorized tire deflation
device, the law enforcement agency shall
Modify its vehicular pursuit policy to provide for the proper use
of the authorized tire deflation device; and
2. Train all officers in the use of the authorized tire deflation
Training must include practical, hands-on operation of the authorized
tire deflation device.
Use of an authorized tire deflation device
An authorized tire deflation device may be utilized only after supervisory
An authorized tire deflation device shall not be used to stop motorcycles,
mopeds, or similar vehicles.
The authorized tire deflation device should not be used in locations
where specific geographic features (e.g., sharp curves, alongside
of rivers, steep embankments, etc.) increase the risk of serious
injury to the officer, violator or public.
Deployment locations should have reasonably good sight distances
to enable the officer to observe the pursuit and other traffic as
The officer deploying the authorized tire deflation device should
not attempt to overtake and pass a high speed pursuit in order to
position the device.
The officer deploying the authorized tire deflation device should
do so from a position of safety.
The officer deploying the authorized tire deflation device should
be in position to allow sufficient time for deployment.
The supervisor overseeing the pursuit must approve the location
of the authorized tire deflation device.
The communications operator shall notify all units of the location
of the authorized tire deflation device deployment.
Activation of the authorized tire deflation device
The officer operating the authorized tire deflation device should
take a position of safety as the pursued vehicle approaches.
After all other traffic has passed over the authorized tire deflation
device, and immediately prior to the pursued vehicle passing over
the authorized tire deflation device, the device shall be activated
(exposing the spikes).
Immediately after the pursued vehicle goes over the authorized tire
deflation device, the officer shall deactivate the device (retract
The officer should immediately notify communications if the pursued
vehicle impacted the authorized tire deflation device, if the officer
observed any signs of deflation, and the direction and operation
of the pursued vehicle after the impact.
Removal of the authorized tire deflation device
As soon as practical, the authorized tire deflation device shall
be removed from the roadway.
After deployment or use of the authorized tire deflation device,
the law enforcement agency shall include the following information
in the narrative of the vehicle pursuit report:
Date, time and location of deployment
Officer who deployed the authorized tire deflation device
Supervisor who authorized the deployment of the authorized tire
Date and time of activation
Officer who activated the authorized tire deflation device
f. Results of the use of authorized tire deflation device on the
Results of the use of the authorized tire deflation device on
any other vehicle, property or person
Results of the use on the authorized tire deflation device itself.
ROLE OF THE SUPERVISOR
being notified or becoming aware of the pursuit, the supervisor
shall decide as quickly as possible whether or not the pursuit should
The supervisor shall permit a pursuit to continue only if
There is a reasonable belief that the violator has committed an
offense of the first or second degree, or an offense enumerated
in Appendix A of this policy, or
There is a reasonable belief that violator poses an immediate threat
to safety of the public or other police officers.
The supervisor shall order a pursuit terminated at any time if he
or she concludes that the danger to the pursuing officers or the
public outweighs the necessity for immediate apprehension of the
The supervisor shall order the pursuit terminated if the suspect's
identity is established to the point where later apprehension may
be accomplished and where there is no immediate threat to public
In recognition of the overall population density and volume of vehicular
traffic in this State, and the increased risk attendant to prolonged
vehicular pursuits, a supervisor shall order the termination of
any pursuit of protracted duration unless the supervisor determines
that further pursuit is justified to respond to an immediate threat
to public safety.
The supervisor shall ensure, for the duration of the pursuit, that
this policy and agency procedures are followed by all officers.
ROLE OF POLICE COMMUNICATIONS
The communications operator shall:
1. Immediately notify a police supervisor of a pursuit in progress
if a supervisor has not already been otherwise notified;
2. Keep the supervisor apprised of the duration and progress of
When possible, a police supervisor shall determine whether there
is a need to assume control over and coordinate pursuit related
All law enforcement agencies shall establish procedures to ensure
that radio channels remain open for pursuit related transmissions
and that all necessary information is made available to officers
involved in the pursuit.
Reinstatement of any previously terminated pursuit shall be undertaken
consistent with the authorization criteria for originally initiating
The original pursuing jurisdiction shall provide timely notification
of a pursuit in progress to any other jurisdiction into which the
Notifying another jurisdiction that a pursuit is in progress is
not a request to join the pursuit. The pursuing agency shall advise
if assistance is necessary. Whenever the pursuing officers are unfamiliar
with the roadways and terrain of the jurisdiction into which the
pursuit has entered, the pursuing agency shall, when possible, seek
the assistance of, and be prepared to relinquish the pursuit to,
the other agency.
All law enforcement officers who operate law enforcement vehicles
in vehicular pursuit situations shall be required to file a pursuit
incident report. Pursuit incident reports are to be filed in a manner
established by agency operating procedures and should contain, at
a minimum, the following information:
Location, date and time of pursuit initiation.
Location, date and time of pursuit termination.
Highest speed achieved, weather conditions, road surface and description
of pursuit area.
Reasons for initiating and terminating the pursuit.
Consequences of the pursuit, such as accidents, injuries or fatalities.
Whether or not the violator was apprehended.
7. The offenses with which the violator was charged.
All law enforcement agencies shall prepare an annual agency Vehicular
Pursuit Summary Report for submission to the county prosecutor.
The annual report shall be submitted on the Police Vehicular Summary
Report Form and shall contain the following information:
Total number of pursuits
2. Number of pursuits resulting in accident, injury, death and arrest.
3. The number and type of vehicles involved in accidents (police,
violator, third party).
A description of individuals injured or killed (police, violator,
The number of violators involved and arrested in pursuit incidents,
VEHICULAR PURSUIT REVIEW
All law enforcement agencies shall establish procedures for the
formal review of all pursuit incident reports.
Pursuit incidents should be reviewed for compliance with applicable
policy and department operating procedures.
Pursuit incidents should also be reviewed to identify the need for
remedial training of individual officers or specific areas of emphasis
in agency-wide training regarding pursuit situations and the application
of pursuit policies and procedures.
Periodic review of pursuit incidents and summary pursuit information
should be conducted in order to identify any additions, deletions
or modifications warranted in departmental pursuit procedures.
All officers shall attend in-service vehicular pursuit training
twice annually. This in-service training shall be held simultaneously
with use of force training which is provided in the firearms requalification
Vehicular pursuit training shall consist of knowledge of applicable
statutes, familiarization with statewide police pursuit policy and
departmental procedures, and decision making skills.
An annual report shall be filed with the county prosecutor or, in
the case of certain state law enforcement agencies, with the Director
of the Division of Criminal Justice. The report will confirm in-service
pursuit training of all police officers in conjunction with semi-annual
firearm requalification and the use of force training.
enforcement agencies may adopt more restrictive policies as to pursuit
procedures or more extensive training and reporting requirements.
In the event an agency chooses to do so, the agency policies and
procedures will prevail with respect to applicability to that agency's
A TO NEW JERSEY POLICE VEHICULAR PURSUIT POLICY
IN ADDITION TO THOSE OF THE FIRST AND SECOND DEGREE FOR WHICH VEHICULAR
PURSUIT MAY BE AUTHORIZED UNDER SUBSECTION IA(1)(a)
by Auto 2C:11-5
Criminal Sexual Contact 2C:14-3a
by Extortion 2C:20-5
Distributing or Dispensing of CDS 2C:35-5b