University of California Santa Cruz Police Department
UC Santa Cruz PD Policy Manual



Vehicle Pursuits


Vehicle pursuits expose innocent citizens, law enforcement officers and fleeing violators to the risk of serious injury or death. The primary purpose of this policy is to provide officers with guidance in balancing the safety of the public and themselves against law enforcement's duty to apprehend violators of the law. Another purpose of this policy is to reduce the potential for pursuit-related collisions. Vehicular pursuits require officers to exhibit a high degree of common sense and sound judgment. Officers must not forget that the immediate apprehension of a suspect is generally not more important than the safety of the public and pursuing officers.

Deciding whether to pursue a motor vehicle is a critical decision that must be made quickly and under difficult and unpredictable circumstances. In recognizing the potential risk to public safety created by vehicular pursuits, no officer or supervisor shall be criticized or disciplined for deciding not to engage in a vehicular pursuit because of the risk involved. This includes circumstances where department policy would permit the initiation or continuation of the pursuit. It is recognized that vehicular pursuits are not always predictable and decisions made pursuant to this policy will be evaluated according to the totality of the circumstances reasonably available at the time of the pursuit.

Officers must remember that the most important factors to the successful conclusion of a pursuit are proper self-discipline and sound professional judgment. Officer's conduct during the course of a pursuit must be objectively reasonable; that is, what a reasonable officer would do under the circumstances. An unreasonable individual’s desire to apprehend a fleeing suspect at all costs has no place in professional law enforcement.


A vehicle pursuit is an event involving one or more law enforcement officers attempting to apprehend a suspect, who is attempting to avoid arrest while operating a motor vehicle by using high-speed driving or other evasive tactics, such as driving off a highway, turning suddenly, or driving in a legal manner but willfully failing to yield to an officer’s signal to stop.



It shall be the policy of this department that a vehicle pursuit shall be conducted only with red light and siren as required by Vehicle Code § 21055 for exemption from compliance with the rules of the road. The following policy is established to provide officers with guidelines for driving with due regard and caution for the safety of all persons using the highway as required by Vehicle Code § 21056.


Officers are authorized to initiate a pursuit when it is reasonable to believe that a suspect is attempting to evade arrest or detention by fleeing in a vehicle. 

The following factors individually and collectively shall be considered in deciding whether to initiate a pursuit:

 (a) Seriousness of the known or reasonably suspected crime and its relationship to community safety.

 (b) The importance of protecting the public and balancing the known or reasonably suspected offense and the apparent need for immediate capture against the risks to officers, innocent motorists and others.

 (c) Apparent nature of the fleeing suspects (e.g., whether the suspects represent a serious threat to public safety).

 (d) The identity of the suspects has been verified and there is comparatively minimal risk in allowing the suspects to be apprehended at a later time.

 (e) Safety of the public in the area of the pursuit, including the type of area, time of day, the amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic and the speed of the pursuit relative to these factors.

 (f) Pursuing officers familiarity with the area of the pursuit, the quality of radio communications between the pursuing units and the dispatcher/supervisor and the driving capabilities of the pursuing officers under the conditions of the pursuit.

 (g) Weather, traffic and road conditions that substantially increase the danger of the pursuit beyond the worth of apprehending the suspect.

 (h) Performance capabilities of the vehicles used in the pursuit in relation to the speeds and other conditions of the pursuit.

 (i) Vehicle speeds.

 (j) Other persons in or on the pursued vehicle (e.g., passengers, co-offenders and hostages).

 (k) Availability of other resources such as helicopter assistance.

 (l) The police unit is carrying passengers other than police officers. Pursuits should not be undertaken with a prisoner in the police vehicle.


Pursuits should be discontinued whenever the totality of objective circumstances known or which reasonably ought to be known to the officer or supervisor during the pursuit indicates that the present risks of continuing the pursuit reasonably appear to outweigh the risks resulting from the suspect’s escape.

The factors listed in When to Initiate a Pursuit of this policy are expressly included herein and will apply equally to the decision to discontinue as well as the decision to initiate a pursuit. Officers and supervisors must objectively and continuously weigh the seriousness of the offense against the potential danger to innocent motorists and themselves when electing to continue a pursuit. In the context of this policy, the term “terminate” shall be construed to mean discontinue or to stop chasing the fleeing vehicle.

In addition to the factors listed in When to Initiate a Pursuit of this policy, the following factors should also be considered in deciding whether to terminate a pursuit:

 (a) Distance between the pursuing officers and the fleeing vehicle is so great that further pursuit would be futile or require the pursuit to continue for an unreasonable time and/ or distance.

 (b) Pursued vehicle’s location is no longer definitely known.

 (c) Officer’s pursuit vehicle sustains any type of damage that renders it unsafe to drive.

 (d) Extended pursuits of violators for misdemeanors not involving violence or risk of serious harm (independent of the pursuit) are discouraged.

 (e) There are hazards to uninvolved bystanders or motorists.

 (f) If the identity of the offender is known and it does not reasonably appear that the need for immediate capture outweighs the risks associated with continuing the pursuit, officers should strongly consider discontinuing the pursuit and apprehending the offender at a later time.

 (g) Pursuit is terminated by a supervisor.


The speed of a pursuit is a factor that should be evaluated on a continuing basis by the officer and supervisor. Evaluation of vehicle speeds shall take into consideration public safety, officer safety and the safety of the occupants of the fleeing vehicle.

Should high vehicle speeds be reached during a pursuit, officers and supervisors shall also consider these factors when determining the reasonableness of the speed of the pursuit:

 (a) Pursuit speeds have become unreasonably unsafe for the surrounding conditions.

 (b) Pursuit speeds have exceeded the driving ability of the officer.

 (c) Pursuit speeds are beyond the capabilities of the pursuit vehicle thus making its operation unsafe.



Pursuit units should be limited to three vehicles (two units and a supervisor); however, the number of units involved will vary with the circumstances. An officer or supervisor may request additional units to join a pursuit if, after assessing the factors outlined above, it appears that the number of officers involved would be insufficient to safely arrest the suspects. All other officers should stay out of the pursuit, but should remain alert to its progress and location. Any officer who drops out of a pursuit may then, if necessary, proceed to the termination point at legal speeds, following the appropriate rules of the road.


A distinctively marked patrol vehicle equipped with emergency overhead lighting should replace a police motorcycle as primary and/or secondary pursuit unit as soon as practical.


Vehicles not equipped with a red light and siren are prohibited from initiating or joining any pursuit.


The initial pursuing unit will be designated as the primary pursuit unit and will be responsible for the conduct of the pursuit unless it is unable to remain reasonably close enough to the violator’s vehicle. The primary responsibility of the officer initiating the pursuit is the apprehension of the suspects without unreasonable danger to him/herself or other persons.

Notify the Dispatch Center that a vehicle pursuit has been initiated and as soon as practicable provide information including, but not limited to:

 (a) Reason for the pursuit.

 (b) Location and direction of travel.

 (c) Speed of the fleeing vehicle.

 (d) Description of the fleeing vehicle and license number, if known.

 (e) Number of known occupants.

 (f) The identity or description of the known occupants.

 (g) Information concerning the use of firearms, threat of force, injuries, hostages or other unusual hazards.

Unless relieved by a supervisor or secondary unit, the officer in the primary unit shall be responsible for the broadcasting of the progress of the pursuit. Unless practical circumstances indicate otherwise, and in order to concentrate on pursuit driving, the primary officer should relinquish the responsibility of broadcasting the progress of the pursuit to a secondary unit or aircraft joining the pursuit.


The second officer in the pursuit is responsible for the following:

 (a) The officer in the secondary unit should immediately notify the dispatcher of entry into the pursuit.

 (b) Remain a safe distance behind the primary unit unless directed to assume the role of primary officer, or if the primary unit is unable to continue the pursuit.

 (c) The secondary officer should be responsible for broadcasting the progress of the pursuit unless the situation indicates otherwise. 


The decision to use specific driving tactics requires the same assessment of considerations outlined in the factors to be considered concerning pursuit initiation and termination. The following are tactics for units involved in the pursuit:

 (a) Officers, considering their driving skills and vehicle performance capabilities, will space themselves from other involved vehicles such that they are able to see and avoid hazards or react safely to maneuvers by the fleeing vehicle.

 (b) Because intersections can present increased risks, the following tactics should be considered:

  1. Available units not directly involved in the pursuit may proceed safely to controlled intersections ahead of the pursuit in an effort to warn cross traffic.
  2. Pursuing units should exercise due caution when proceeding through controlled intersections.

 (c) As a general rule, officers should not pursue a vehicle driving left of center (wrong way) on a In the event that the pursued vehicle does so, the following tactics should be considered:

  1. Requesting assistance from an air unit.
  2. Maintaining visual contact with the pursued vehicle by paralleling it on the correct side of the roadway.
  3. Requesting other units to observe exits available to the suspects.

 (d) Notifying the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and/or other jurisdictional agency if it appears that the pursuit may enter their jurisdiction.

 (e) Officers involved in a pursuit should not attempt to pass other units unless the situation indicates otherwise or they are requested to do so by the primary unit.


There should be no paralleling of the pursuit route. Officers are authorized to use emergency equipment at intersections along the pursuit path to clear intersections of vehicular and pedestrian traffic to protect the public. Officers should remain in their assigned area and should not become involved with the pursuit unless directed otherwise by a supervisor.

Non-pursuing personnel needed at the termination of the pursuit should respond in a non- emergency manner, observing the rules of the road.

The primary and secondary units should be the only units operating under emergency conditions (red light and siren) unless other units are assigned to the pursuit. 


In the event the initiating unit from this agency either relinquishes control of the pursuit to another unit or jurisdiction, that initiating unit may, with permission of a supervisor, trail the pursuit to the termination point in order to provide necessary information and assistance for the arrest of the suspects.

The term trail means to follow the path of the pursuit at a safe speed while obeying all traffic laws and without activating emergency equipment. If the pursuit is at a slow rate of speed, the trailing unit will maintain sufficient distance from the pursuit units so as to clearly indicate an absence of participation in the pursuit.


When available, aircraft assistance should be requested. Once the air unit has established visual contact with the pursued vehicle, it should assume control over the pursuit. The primary and secondary ground units should consider the participation of aircraft assistance when determining whether to continue the pursuit.

The air unit should coordinate the activities of resources on the ground, report progress of the pursuit and provide officers and supervisors with details of upcoming traffic congestion, road hazards, or other pertinent information to evaluate whether or not to continue the pursuit. If ground units are not within visual contact and the air unit determines that it is unsafe to continue the pursuit, the air unit has the authority to terminate the pursuit.



It is the policy of this department that available supervisory and management control will be exercised over all vehicle pursuits involving officers from this department.

The field supervisor of the officer initiating the pursuit, or if unavailable, the nearest field supervisor will be responsible for the following:

 (a) Upon becoming aware of a pursuit, immediately ascertaining all reasonably available information to continuously assess the situation and risk factors associated with the pursuit in order to ensure that the pursuit is conducted within established department guidelines.

 (b) Engaging in the pursuit, when appropriate, to provide on-scene supervision.

 (c) Exercising management and control of the pursuit even if not engaged in it.

 (d) Ensuring that no more than the number of required police units needed are involved in the pursuit under the guidelines set forth in this policy.

 (e) Directing that the pursuit be terminated if, in his/her judgment, it is unjustified to continue the pursuit under the guidelines of this policy.

 (f) Ensuring that aircraft are requested if available.

 (g) Ensuring that the proper radio channel is being used.

 (h) Ensuring the notification and/or coordination of outside agencies if the pursuit either leaves or is likely to leave the jurisdiction of this agency.

 (i) Controlling and managing UCPD units when a pursuit enters another jurisdiction.

 (j) Preparing post-pursuit critique and analysis of the pursuit for training purposes.



Upon becoming aware that a pursuit has been initiated, the Shift Supervisor should monitor and continually assess the situation and ensure the pursuit is conducted within the guidelines and requirements of this policy. The Shift Supervisor has the final responsibility for the coordination, control and termination of a vehicle pursuit and shall be in overall command.

The Shift Supervisor shall review all pertinent reports for content and forward to the Division Commander.



If the pursuit is confined within the University of California limits, radio communications will be conducted on the primary channel unless instructed otherwise by a supervisor or communications dispatcher. If the pursuit leaves the jurisdiction of this department or such is imminent, involved units should, whenever available, switch radio communications to an emergency channel most accessible by participating agencies and units.


Upon notification that a pursuit has been initiated, the Dispatch Center will:

 (a) Coordinate pursuit communications of the involved units and personnel.

 (b) Notify and coordinate with other involved or affected agencies as practicable.

 (c) Ensure that a field supervisor is notified of the pursuit.

 (d) Assign an incident number and log all pursuit activities.

 (e) Broadcast pursuit updates as well as other pertinent information as necessary.

 (f) Notify the Shift Supervisor as soon as practicable.


When the pursued vehicle is lost, the primary unit should broadcast pertinent information to assist other units in locating suspects. The primary unit will be responsible for coordinating any further search for either the pursued vehicle or suspects fleeing on foot.



When a pursuit enters another agency's jurisdiction, the primary officer or supervisor, taking  into consideration distance traveled, unfamiliarity with the area and other pertinent facts, should determine whether to request the other agency to assume the pursuit. Unless entry into another jurisdiction is expected to be brief, it is generally recommended that the primary officer or supervisor ensure that notification is provided to each outside jurisdiction into which the pursuit is reasonably expected to enter, regardless of whether such jurisdiction is expected to assist.


Units originally involved will discontinue the pursuit when advised that another agency has assumed the pursuit and assistance of the University of California Santa Cruz Police Department is no longer needed. Upon discontinuing the pursuit, the primary unit may proceed upon request, with or at the direction of a supervisor, to the termination point to assist in the investigation.

The role and responsibilities of officers at the termination of a pursuit initiated by this department shall be coordinated with appropriate consideration of the units from the agency assuming the pursuit.

Notification of a pursuit in progress should not be construed as a request to join the pursuit. Requests to or from another agency to assume a pursuit should be specific. Because of communication limitations between local agencies and CHP units, a request for CHP assistance will mean that they will assume responsibilities for the pursuit. For the same reasons, when a pursuit leaves the freeway and a request for assistance is made to this department, the CHP should relinquish control.


The agency that initiates a pursuit shall be responsible for conducting the pursuit. Units from this department should not join a pursuit unless specifically requested to do so by the agency whose officers are in pursuit. The exception to this is when a single unit from the initiating agency is in pursuit. Under this circumstance, a unit from this department may join the pursuit until sufficient units from the initiating agency join the pursuit.

When a request is made for this department to assist or take over a pursuit from another agency that has entered this jurisdiction, the supervisor should consider these additional following factors:

 (a) Ability to maintain the pursuit

 (b) Circumstances serious enough to continue the pursuit

 (c) Adequate staffing to continue the pursuit

 (d) The public's safety within this jurisdiction

 (e) Safety of the pursuing officers

As soon as practicable, a supervisor or the Shift Supervisor should review a request for assistance from another agency. The Shift Supervisor or supervisor, after consideration of the above factors, may decline to assist in, or assume the other agency’s pursuit.

Assistance to a pursuing allied agency by officers of this department will terminate at the University of California limits provided that the pursuing officers have sufficient assistance from other sources. Ongoing participation from this department may continue only until sufficient assistance is present.

In the event that a pursuit from another agency terminates within this jurisdiction, officers shall provide appropriate assistance to officers from the allied agency including, but not limited to, scene control, coordination and completion of supplemental reports and any other assistance requested or needed.



Pursuit intervention is an attempt to terminate the ability of a suspect to continue to flee in         a motor vehicle through tactical application of technology, road spikes, blocking, boxing, PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique), ramming or roadblock procedures. In this context, ramming shall be construed to mean maneuvering the police unit into contact with the pursued vehicle to mechanically disable or forcibly position it such that further flight is not possible or practicable.


Use of pursuit intervention tactics should be employed only after approval of a supervisor. In deciding whether to use intervention tactics, officers/supervisors should balance the risks of allowing the pursuit to continue with the potential hazards arising from the use of each tactic to the public, the officers and persons in or on the pursued vehicle. With these risks in mind, the decision to use any intervention tactic should be reasonable in light of the circumstances confronting the officer at the time of the decision.

It is imperative that officers act within the bounds of legality, good judgment and accepted practices.


Blocking or vehicle intercept - A slow-speed coordinated maneuver where two or more patrol vehicles simultaneously intercept and block the movement of a suspect vehicle, the driver of which may be unaware of the impending enforcement stop, with the goal of containment and preventing a pursuit. Blocking is not a moving or stationary road block.

Boxing-in - A tactic designed to stop a violator’s vehicle by surrounding it with law enforcement vehicles and then slowing all vehicles to a stop.

Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) - A low-speed maneuver designed to cause the suspect vehicle to spin out and terminate the pursuit.

Ramming - The deliberate act of impacting a violator’s vehicle with another vehicle to functionally damage or otherwise force the violator’s vehicle to stop.

Roadblocks - A tactic designed to stop a violator’s vehicle by intentionally placing an emergency vehicle or other immovable object in the path of the violator’s vehicle.

Spikes or tack strips - A device that extends across the roadway designed to puncture the tires of the pursued vehicle.


Firearms shall not be used to disable a pursued vehicle. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any officer from using a firearm to stop a suspect from using a vehicle as a deadly weapon. Refer Shooting Policy section 304/ 304.1.3 (Moving Vehicles) for additonal information.


Any pursuit intervention tactic, depending upon the conditions and circumstances under which  it is used, may present dangers to the officers, the public or anyone in or on the vehicle being pursued. Certain applications of intervention tactics may be construed to be a use of deadly force and subject to the requirements for such use. Officers shall consider these facts and requirements prior to deciding how, when, where and if an intervention tactic should be employed.

 (a) Blocking or vehicle intercept should only be considered in cases involving felony suspects or impaired drivers who pose a threat to public safety when officers reasonably believe that attempting a conventional enforcement stop will likely result in the driver attempting to flee in the vehicle. Because of the potential risks involved, this technique should only be employed by officers who have received training in such tactics after giving consideration to the following:

  1. The need to immediately stop the suspect vehicle or prevent it from leaving substantially outweighs the risks of injury or death to occupants of the suspect vehicle, officers, or other members of the public.
  2. All other reasonable intervention techniques have failed or reasonably appear ineffective.
  3. Employing the blocking maneuver does not unreasonably increase the risk to officer safety.
  4. The target vehicle is stopped or traveling at a low speed.
  5. At no time should civilian vehicles be used to deploy this technique.

 (b) Only those officers trained in the use of the Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) will be authorized to use this procedure and only then with approval of a supervisor upon consideration of the circumstances and conditions presented at the time, including the potential for risk of injury to officers, the public and occupants of the pursued

 (c) Ramming a fleeing vehicle should be done only after other reasonable tactical means at the officer's disposal have been exhausted. This tactic should be reserved for situations where there does not appear to be another reasonable alternative This policy is an administrative guide to direct officers in their decision-making process before ramming another vehicle. When ramming is used as a means to stop a fleeing vehicle, one or more of the following factors should be present:

  1. The suspect is an actual or suspected felon who reasonably appears to represent a serious threat to the public if not apprehended.
  2. The suspect is driving with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other persons or is driving in a reckless and life-endangering manner.
  3. If there does not reasonably appear to be a present or immediately foreseeable serious threat to the public, the use of ramming is not authorized.

 (d) As with all intervention techniques, pursuing officers should obtain supervisor approval before attempting to box a suspect vehicle during a pursuit. The use of such a technique must be carefully coordinated with all involved units, taking into consideration the circumstances and conditions presented at the time as well as the potential risk of injury to officers, the public and occupants of the pursued vehicle.

 (e) The use of spike strips should be approved in advance by a supervisor and deployed only when it is reasonably certain that only the pursued vehicle will be affected by their use. Officers should carefully consider the limitations of such devices as well as the potential risks to officers, the public and occupants of the pursued vehicle. If the pursued vehicle is a motorcycle, a vehicle transporting hazardous materials, or a school bus transporting children, officers and supervisors should weigh the potential consequences against the need to immediately stop the vehicle.

 (f) Because roadblocks involve a potential for serious injury or death to occupants of the pursued vehicle if the suspect does not stop, the intentional placement of roadblocks in the direct path of a pursued vehicle is generally discouraged and should not be deployed without prior approval of a supervisor and only then under extraordinary conditions when all other reasonable intervention techniques have failed or reasonably appear ineffective and the need to immediately stop the pursued vehicle substantially outweighs the risks of injury or death to occupants of the pursued vehicle, officers or other members of the public.


Proper self-discipline and sound professional judgment are the keys to a successful conclusion of a pursuit and apprehension of evading suspects. Officers shall use only that amount of force, which reasonably appears necessary under the circumstances, to properly perform their lawful duties.

Unless relieved by a supervisor, the primary officer should coordinate efforts to apprehend the suspects following the pursuit. Officers should consider safety of the public and the involved officers when formulating plans to contain and capture the suspects.



The following reports should be completed upon conclusion of all pursuits:

 (a) The primary officer should complete appropriate crime/arrest reports.

 (b) The Shift Supervisor shall ensure that an Allied Agency Vehicle Pursuit Report (form CHP 187A) is filed with the CHP not later than 30 days following the pursuit (Vehicle Code § 14602.1). The primary officer should complete as much of the required information on the form as is known and forward the report to the Shift Supervisor for review and distribution.

 (c) After first obtaining the available information, a field supervisor shall promptly complete a Supervisor's Log, briefly summarizing the pursuit, and submit it to his/her This log should minimally contain the following information:

  1. Date and time of pursuit
  2. Length of pursuit
  3. Involved units and officers
  4. Initial reason for pursuit
  5. Starting and termination points
  6. Disposition (arrest, citation), including arrestee information if applicable
  7. Injuries and/or property damage
  8. Medical treatment
  9. Name of supervisor at scene
  10. A preliminary determination whether the pursuit appears to be in compliance with this policy and whether additional review or follow-up is warranted


In addition to initial and supplementary Police Officer Standard Training (POST) training on pursuits required by Penal Code § 13519.8, all sworn members of this department will participate no less than annually in regular and periodic department training addressing this policy and the importance of vehicle safety and protecting the public at all times, including a recognition of the need to balance the known offense and the need for immediate capture against the risks to officers and others (Vehicle Code § 17004.7(d)).


Each sworn member of this department shall certify in writing that they have received, read and understand this policy initially and upon any amendments.


The Chief of Police or designee may convene a Pursuit Review Panel to review the circumstances and actions taken during a pursuit, consistent with the guidelines outlined in policy in Chapter 302 regarding the Use of Force Review Panel.



This policy is expressly written and adopted pursuant to the provisions of Vehicle Code § 17004.7, with additional input from the POST Vehicle Pursuit Guidelines.




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