6-6 Vehicle Pursuits

Policy Type: Local

Responsible Office: Chief John Venuti, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department

Initial Policy Approved: 11/25/2013

Current Revision Approved: 5/14/2018



VCUPD officers shall make every reasonable effort to apprehend fleeing law violators. Each officer is expected to exercise good professional judgment and common sense in selecting appropriate tactics to accomplish such apprehensions. Vehicular pursuits are inherently dangerous, and should be considered only when the escape of a law violator poses a greater threat to the safety of the community than the pursuit itself. These guidelines will provide for the safe operation of the emergency vehicle while ensuring the protection and safety of the officer, the public, and the suspect.

The risks associated with pursuits mandates that officers exercise sound judgment and discretion throughout the pursuit. This policy is intended to guide the decision-making process and applies to all sworn personnel operating VCUPD vehicles equipped with lights and sirens; vehicles not equipped with these safety measures ARE NOT PERMITTED to engage in vehicular pursuits.

This policy specifies when an officer and/or a supervisor should initiate or terminate a vehicle pursuit along with the responsibilities of the initiating officer, monitoring supervisor, the Dispatch officer and any other involved police vehicles. These guidelines are intended to guide officers through the safe and reasonable performance of their duties. There are exceptions to certain traffic laws granted to police officers who are engaged in emergency vehicle operations to assist them to save lives.

It is the policy of the VCUPD that its officers will:

  1. Make every effort to ensure the safety of the public and department members at all times, and authorize emergency use of police vehicles when the necessity of immediate response or apprehension of offenders outweighs the level of inherent danger.
  2. Recognize the objective of a motor vehicle pursuit is to maintain police contact with a fleeing driver, without unnecessary endangerment to life and property, until the individual can be apprehended, if possible. Officers and the pursuit supervisor will continually evaluate the nature of the pursuit with respect to its danger and, whenever necessary, make the decision to terminate the pursuit.
  3. Not become actively involved in a regional pursuit that enters this jurisdiction unless the factors that lead the outside agency to initiate the pursuit meets the criteria set forth by this policy and only when directed to do so by VCUPD supervision. For pursuits that enter this jurisdiction that do not meet these criteria, VCUPD officers will participate in a support capacity only. 


Accountability Statement

All employees are expected to fully comply with the guidelines and timelines set forth in this written directive. Failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action. Responsibility rests with the supervisor to ensure that any policy violations are investigated and appropriate training, counseling and/or disciplinary action is initiated.



  1. PURSUIT – An active attempt by a law enforcement officer, in a police vehicle equipped with siren and emergency lights, to apprehend the occupants of another moving vehicle, who are aware of the attempt but resisting apprehension by increasing speed or clearly taking evasive measures. Continuing the pursuit requires justification based on the potential threat to public safety and personal safety of the officer, and/or the seriousness of the criminal activity.
  2. PURSUIT SUPERVISOR – Upon initiation of a pursuit, a supervisor will acknowledge by radio and be designated as the pursuit supervisor. However, if that supervisor is the operator of a primary, support or backup unit that is involved in a pursuit, they shall not act as the pursuit supervisor. The next immediate ranking supervisor in the division, if available, shall serve as the pursuit supervisor for the duration of the pursuit. If that ranking supervisor is not available, one shall be summoned from another division to become the pursuit supervisor. Dispatch shall terminate the pursuit if these efforts to contact a supervisor fail. NOTE: In situations where the duty supervisor initiates the pursuit, the duty supervisor can delegate to a lower ranking supervisor if a higher ranking supervisor is not available.
  3. PRIMARY UNIT – The marked police unit closest to a fleeing vehicle and in direct pursuit.
  4. SECONDARY UNIT – The second marked police unit directly involved in the pursuit and behind the primary unit.
  5. REGIONAL PURSUIT CHANNEL (RPC) – A regional talk group shared by the Richmond Police Department (RPD), Henrico County Division of Police (HPD), Chesterfield County Police Department (CPD), Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), Colonial Heights Police Department (CHPD), and VCUPD. All incoming regional pursuits will be presumed not to meet our criteria until verification is authorized by a supervisor and confirmed and broadcast by Dispatch.
  6. SUPPORT CAPACITY – Tactical involvement that consists of officers assisting pursuing units by placing themselves in strategic positions to warn the public of the approaching pursuit and assist in apprehensions of suspects at the termination of the pursuit.


General Rules for Pursuits

  1. Exceptions to Certain Specific Traffic Regulations:
    1. When engaged in a pursuit with full emergency equipment in operation, officers are permitted to disregard certain specific traffic regulations. VA Code §46.2-920 mandates that the drivers of any emergency vehicles, when such vehicles are being used in the performance of public services, and are operated under emergency conditions, may, without subjecting themselves to criminal prosecution:
      1. Disregard speed limits, while having due regard for safety of persons and property.
        1. NOTE: When pursuing vehicles on city streets (non-highway roads) officers are not permitted to exceed the maximum speed of 50 MPH unless there are extreme and extenuating circumstances and the roadways permit. Officers are reminded at all times when pursuing vehicles to take into consideration the totality of circumstances, including offense type, time of day, speed, weather, roadway conditions, etc.
      2. Proceed past any steady or flashing red signal traffic light, stop sign, or device indicating moving traffic shall stop, if the speed of the vehicle is sufficiently reduced to enable it to pass with due regard to the safety of persons and property.
      3. Park or stop, notwithstanding the other provisions of Chapter 46.2 of the Code of Virginia.
      4. Disregard regulations governing a direction of movement of vehicles turning in specified directions so long as the operator does not endanger life or property.
      5. Pass or overtake, with due regard for the safety of persons or property, another vehicle at any intersection.
      6. Pass or overtake with due regard for the safety of persons and property, while en route to an emergency, stopped or slow-moving vehicles, by going to the left of the stopped or slow-moving vehicle in a no-passing zone or by crossing the highway centerline.
      7. Pass or overtake with due regard to the safety of persons and property, while en route to an emergency, stopped or slow-moving vehicles, by going off the paved or main traveled portion of the roadway on the right. Notwithstanding other provisions of this section, vehicles exempt in this instance will not be required to sound a siren or any device to give automatically intermittent signals.
      8. The exceptions granted to emergency vehicles under this section shall apply only when the operators of such vehicle displays a flashing, blinking, or altering emergency light, or lights and sounds a siren, exhaust whistle, or air horn as provided in VA Code §46.2-1022 – §46.2-1023.
      9. Officers who disregard traffic regulations other than those specifically cited above are in automatic violation of VA State Code and internal policy.
        1. NOTE: VA Code §46.2-844, §46.2-859 offers no exemptions for emergency vehicles to pass school buses while loading or unloading with lights on.
  2. All emergency equipment shall remain activated during the pursuit. The primary and secondary units may consider using different siren signals to help the public identify multiple units approaching.
  3. Officers shall not ram, bump or collide with fleeing vehicles. Officers shall not pull alongside such vehicles in an attempt to force them off the road or into an obstacle. At no time shall officers maneuver their vehicles in front of a fleeing vehicle in an attempt to slow it down. Forcible stopping or ramming is strictly prohibited.
  4. Officers shall only fire their weapons, in accordance with the provisions set forth within Written Directives 1-7 Use of Force and 1-9 Firearms.
  5. If a non-police occupant is in the vehicle, the officer shall not engage in a pursuit, unless that passenger is discharged at a safe location.
  6. There shall be no attempt to pass other police units involved in a pursuit, unless the passed unit is aware of the maneuver and is handing over the pursuit to the passing police unit.
  7. Whenever the vehicle being pursued drives against oncoming traffic along a divided highway or access/exit ramps, the pursuing officers shall continue the pursuit in the proper lanes of traffic and broadcast the situation immediately so that support units may consider any appropriate actions.


Initiating a Pursuit

  1. An officer may initiate a pursuit only after a suspect attempts to flee from or refuses to stop for the officer who has attempted to stop the suspect based on at least a reasonable suspicion that the suspect has committed or is attempting to commit a serious criminal offense that endangers life or public safety. This policy strictly prohibits pursuits of motor vehicles for any traffic infractions. In deciding whether to initiate a pursuit, officers shall consider the following factors:
    1. Traffic conditions, both pedestrian and vehicular,
    2. Day or night visibility conditions,
    3. Roadway conditions,
    4. Time of day (rush hour, school traffic, etc.),
    5. Location and proximity to residential neighborhoods,
    6. Weather conditions, and
    7. Whether the seriousness of the offense and/or the immediate apprehension of the suspect necessitate initiating the pursuit.
  2. When the decision is made to initiate a pursuit, that officer will bear operational responsibility for the pursuit, unless relieved by a supervisor or another primary unit.
  3. ONLY MARKED POLICE CARS shall initiate and participate in a pursuit. Only during extenuating circumstances shall an unmarked police unit initiate or participate in a pursuit. Marked wagons are prohibited from engaging in pursuits.


Pursuit Tactics

  1. No more than the primary unit and the secondary unit shall become involved in a pursuit, unless directed otherwise by the pursuit supervisor. Additional units may be added, at the discretion of the supervisor, based on: 
    1. Whether the suspect(s) is armed,
    2. Existence of multiple suspects in the fleeing vehicle, and/or
    3. Other extenuating circumstances heightening safety concerns of the pursuing officers.
  2. “Paralleling” along adjacent streets is forbidden.
  3. The best tactics used are patience and safe driving utilizing the police radio and Metro Richmond Aviation Unit aircraft.
  4. Officers monitoring should plan for routes that enter their assignments.
  5. In the event of a foot pursuit, upon termination of the pursuit, officers shall create a perimeter and limit radio traffic.
  6. Pursuits shall remain on the channel on which they originated, whenever possible.


Primary Unit Responsibilities

  1. When a pursuit is initiated, the operator of the primary unit shall immediately advise Dispatch of the following information:
    1. Unit identification number,
    2. Initiation of a pursuit,
    3. Unit’s location (and the location of the fleeing vehicle, if different),
    4. Unit’s direction of travel,
    5. State registration and license number of the fleeing vehicle, if known,
    6. Description of the fleeing vehicle,
    7. Number of occupants of the fleeing vehicle and their descriptions, if known,
    8. Justifying violation for the pursuit,
    9. Whether the suspect(s) is armed, and
    10. Any other appropriate information.
  2. The primary unit should attempt to maintain safe visual contact with the fleeing vehicle and relinquish radio operations to the secondary unit as soon as that unit joins the pursuit.


Secondary Unit Responsibilities

  1. Any secondary marked unit joining a pursuit shall immediately notify Dispatch that there are two marked police vehicles in the pursuit. The secondary unit will assume all radio communication responsibilities.
  2. The secondary unit shall be responsible for trailing the primary unit at a safe distance and report the progress and direction of the pursuit over the radio.


Pursuit Supervisor Responsibilities

  1. During a pursuit, the pursuit supervisor shall:
    1. Be responsible for all units involved in the pursuit, regardless of their regular assignment. In that regard, the authority of the units involved in a pursuit shall be subordinate to the authority of the pursuit supervisor,
    2. Immediately proceed to the vicinity of the pursuit,
    3. Continuously monitor the pursuit to ensure compliance with the provisions of this policy, and
    4. Monitor the progress of the pursuit and issue orders as appropriate, including the termination of the pursuit if circumstances warrant such.
  2. The on-call Captain shall be notified immediately of all pursuits and the on-call Captain will immediately notify the Chief of Police.


Dispatch Unit Responsibilities

  1. Dispatch shall report the current location or direction of travel of the pursuit to the supervisor. The supervisor shall acknowledge and begin to monitor the pursuit. If the designated supervisor does not acknowledge the pursuit, a supervisor shall be summoned from another area. If this fails, Dispatch shall terminate the pursuit.
  2. Following initial contact with the primary unit, Dispatch shall perform all of the following:
    1. Record all pursuit transmissions
    2. Keep the air clear. Restate the status of the pursuit to clarify location only when necessary
    3. Dispatch will use one ALERT tone to notify all uninvolved areas that a pursuit is underway and to minimize air traffic
    4. Notify RPD that a pursuit is underway and request Metro Richmond Air Unit assistance
    5. Once the vehicle’s license number and direction of travel are obtained, Dispatch shall run relevant record checks and provide the results to the primary unit and the pursuit supervisor
    6. In the event that the suspect(s) flees on foot, Dispatch shall notify RPD Division of Emergency Dispatch to request a K-9 Unit, if applicable
    7. Dispatch shall continue to monitor the pursuit until it is discontinued or until the fleeing vehicle has been stopped and the situation is stable


Other Police Unit Responsibilities

  1. No other police units shall join the active pursuit, unless directed by supervision.
  2. Police units adjacent to the actual pursuit or those most likely in the pursuit path should consider positioning themselves within their assigned areas, so as to locate the violator, should the pursuing unit(s) lose sight of the vehicle. They should move into a position to assist with the apprehension, if it takes place within their assigned area.
  3. Assisting officers in the pursuit area should assist by placing themselves in a strategic position to warn the public of the approaching pursuit.


Inbound Pursuits

  1. If Dispatch is notified of a pursuit coming into VCU, Dispatch shall alert the appropriate area(s) to acknowledge the pursuit.
  2. Dispatch shall then ascertain the reason for the pursuit and advise the affected supervisor or another supervisor, if that supervisor does not respond or is not available.
  3. The responding supervisor shall determine whether VCUPD officers will be deployed. Without the authorization of a supervisor, there shall be no pursuit. Units shall proceed to respond in a support capacity unless advised otherwise by a supervisor.
  4. Supervisors shall ensure officers assist pursuit units by placing themselves in strategic positions to warn the public of the approaching pursuit and assist in apprehensions of suspects at the termination of the pursuit.
  5. The Regional Pursuit Channel (RPC) is to be used ONLY for region-wide pursuits in which officers from at least one of the member jurisdictions are involved and the pursuit is expected to crossjurisdictional boundaries. VCUPD will access the RPC during an in-bound pursuit once the determination is made by the patrol supervisor whether VCUPD will actively assist with the pursuit or simply act in a supporting capacity. Once this determination is made ALL units involved with the inbound pursuit shall switch to the RPC.
    1. NOTE: If officers move to the RPC without authorization, they will be isolated from communicating with Dispatch and fellow officers, thereby, creating extremely unsafe conditions.
  6. VCUPD units on the involved channel, NOT directly involved in the pursuit, may be instructed by Dispatch to move to another channel to receive calls and other services.


Outbound Pursuits

  1. Immediately upon declaration of a vehicle pursuit VCUPD Emergency Dispatch Center (ECC) staff will contact Richmond Division of Emergency Dispatch (DEC) via VCU4 (RPD4) to request authority to patch a vehicle pursuit to RPD4. Once approval is obtained, VCUPD ECC will immediately execute a radio patch from VCU1 to VCU4 (RPD4). Once executed, the VCUPD primary radio dispatcher will announce on VCU4 all of the following information pertaining to the pursuit:
    1. Unit identification number
    2. Initiation of a pursuit
    3. Unit’s location (and the location of the fleeing vehicle, if different)
    4. Unit’s direction of travel
    5. State registration and license number of the fleeing vehicle, if known
    6. Description of the fleeing vehicle
    7. Number of occupants of the fleeing vehicle and their descriptions, if known
    8. Justifying violation for the pursuit
    9. Whether the suspect(s) is armed
    10. Any other appropriate information
  2. The pursuit supervisor has the authority to terminate the pursuit at any time.
  3. Dispatch shall coordinate with the receiving police department and take appropriate actions for the proper exchange of information and, at the proper time, patch the channel to the RPC. If an officer cannot understand radio transmissions, the officer shall terminate the pursuit.
  4. Dispatch shall coordinate with the Richmond Police Department and take appropriate actions for the proper exchange of information. If an officer cannot understand radio transmissions, the officer shall terminate the pursuit.
  5. As soon as the pursuit has been patched to VCU4 (RPD4), RPD DEC will assume radio control of the pursuit. As soon as an RPD unit joins the pursuit, they will assume the responsibility as the primary unit and VCUPD’s primary unit will fall back and assume the responsibilities of the secondary unit. VCU’s secondary unit will then discontinue the active pursuit.
  6. Any pursuit will be terminated if the suspect vehicle is not stopped prior to exiting the jurisdiction of the city of Richmond.
  7. Once RPD has actively engaged in the pursuit they shall be the sole decision making authority as to whether the pursuit may go regional and be patched to the RPC.


Terminating a Pursuit

  1. The pursuing officer(s) shall notify Dispatch when terminating a pursuit for any reason. A pursuit shall be terminated for any of the following reasons:
    1. When the risks to the officer’s personal safety and/or the safety of others outweigh the consequences of the suspect’s possible escape,
    2. When the level of danger created by the pursuit outweighs the necessity for immediate apprehension,
    3. When the suspect’s identity has been established to the point that later apprehension can be accomplished and there is no longer a compelling need for immediate apprehension,
    4. When the pursuing officer believes that they no longer has control of the police vehicle,
    5. When the pursued vehicle has outdistanced the officer, NOTE: Continuing the pursuit would require speeds that could endanger the officer and/or the public. The pursuing officer(s) may continue to look for the suspect, but at the legally posted speed limit.
    6. When the officer cannot understand the radio transmissions from both Dispatch and the pursuit supervisor,
    7. When visibility, weather conditions and/or road conditions limit the probability of a safe and successful end to the pursuit,
    8. When the pursuit supervisor orders termination of the pursuit, and/or
    9. When the offender is apprehended.


Pursuit Crashes

  1. If a crash occurs during the course of a police pursuit involving one or more citizens’ vehicles, the RPD Crash Team shall be notified to respond and investigate the crash.
  2. If a crash occurs during the course of a police pursuit involving one or more department vehicles, the Virginia State Police shall be notified to respond and investigate the crash.
    1. NOTE: Officers, investigators and supervisors shall follow investigative and reporting procedures set forth in Written Directive 8-3 Crash Investigations and Reporting.


Reporting Requirements

  1. The pursuing officer shall complete an IBR and pages 1-3 of the VCUPD-44 Supervisory Pursuit Report.
  2. All pursuits shall be reviewed. This includes any pursuit that is initiated or terminated on campus, as well as those that are initiated by other agencies in which VCUPD is involved. The pursuit supervisor shall submit the completed VCUPD-44 form before the end of their tour of duty, through appropriate channels, to the division Captain. The report shall outline the specifics of the pursuit, regardless of whether or not an arrest was made.
  3. If further action is necessary (such as disciplinary action needed because an officer violated policy during the pursuit), the pursuit supervisor shall initiate such action and ensure that other required reports or investigations are completed.
  4. After the division Captain has reviewed the VCUPD-44, the report shall be forwarded to the division’s Assistant Chief, along with appropriate comments and recommendations, if any, for disciplinary action, counseling, additional training, and/or policy review. After the division’s Assistant Chief has reviewed the VCUPD-44, the report shall be forwarded to the Pursuit Review Committee. Following the Committee’s review, the VCUPD-44 report shall be forwarded to the Chief of Police.
  5. A hard copy of the VCUPD-44 and all applicable reports (FR 300P, IBR, Police Vehicle Accident Package, etc.) will be maintained on file.
  6. A copy of the VCUPD-44 shall be forwarded to the Training and Education Division.
  7. The Pursuit Review Committee shall conduct an annual, documented analysis of all pursuit reports, which will be submitted to the Chief of Police.


Training and Education Division Responsibilities

Training and Education Division personnel shall provide and/or coordinate recruit, in-service and remedial training, which includes emergency response, pursuit techniques, precision driving and crash avoidance methods.


Related Forms and Documentation

  1. VCUPD-44 Supervisory Pursuit Report
  2. IBR (when applicable)
  3. Crash forms (when applicable)


Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

11/25/2013 - 6-6 Vehicle Pursuits