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Politics Brakes for High-Speed Police Chases

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Just two weeks removed from Darryl Harris' conviction for eluding police in a chase that ultimately killed Church Hill pastor Anthony Taylor in March, the political uproar over high-speed pursuits has slowed to a crawl.

Mayor Dwight Jones sent out an Issue Update on pursuits in an e-mail blast last week, a wrap-up of the policy changes since Taylor's death.

Among the highlights: The mayor cites improving communication between jurisdictions and increasing the distance of drunken-driving checkpoints between the surrounding counties and the city line from one to two miles. There will also be an annual review of pursuits, Jones reports.

Such chases in the city have decreased 10 percent, Jones says, and the department is considering policies that limit pursuits even further. Ultimately, the mayor says he's pushing for a policy that only allows high-speed chases in “the most egregious cases,” but doesn't offer specifics.

The State Crime Commission is studying the issue, and is scheduled to report its initial findings in September. For now, however, it appears unlikely there will be any significant changes to pursuit policies in the region.

Other police departments across the country have seriously limited or banned such pursuits after high-profile accidents, especially in cases involving minor traffic infractions. In some cases, police officials say, there's no need to pursue if the officers have information on where to find the suspect — such as an address. 

In Harris' case, Henrico police officers had retrieved Harris' driver's license at a checkpoint before he sped off.

Harris later told officers that he panicked at the checkpoint because he had a pistol under his seat and had been smoking marijuana. He led Henrico police on a chase that exceeded 90 mph at points, running seven stop signs after entering the city from Nine Mile Road. The chase ended after Harris T-boned Taylor's pickup truck at 31st and P streets.

In a letter to his mother, Harris said he was sorry for Taylor's death: “Dear Mom, please convey my sorrow for the lose [sic] of Apostle Taylor,” he writes. “I have promised to dedicate my life to Apostle Taylor's memory!”

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