Memphis Police Had No Policy on Foot Chases Before Tyre Nichols' Death

Outrage over deadly police pursuits in other cities has fed a growing effort to limit them.

FILE - Memphis Police vehicle sits outside the Memphis Police Department
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Foot chases have long been a routine and accepted part of what police officers do: When someone runs from an officer, the officer takes off after them.

These chases can end catastrophically, with confrontations in which suspects are more likely than police officers to be injured or killed, research finds. In Memphis, Tennessee, last month, police officers chased Tyre Nichols on foot following a traffic stop, then beat him to death when they caught him. Five officers were charged with second-degree murder.

Yet the Memphis Police Department does not have a policy specifying how officers should handle foot chases, and neither do most American law enforcement agencies.

But that’s begun to change, after a string of high-profile police killings that followed foot chases in other cities — including Chicago; Sacramento, California; Baltimore; and Las Vegas — fed an expanding effort to limit such pursuits. Video from officers’ body cameras has given the public a firsthand look at how chases can turn deadly. Studies in different parts of the country have found that a significant proportion — ranging from 12% to 48% — of police shootings followed foot pursuits. 

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