Legislators willing to re-examine hot pursuit law in wake of recent deadly accidents

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 7:46 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The police chase that started in Pearl and ended in Flowood Sunday is again putting the state’s hot pursuit law under the microscope.

The state law leaves all the details up to the locals, but this isn’t the first time that pursuits have ended in a deadly crash and called people’s attention to the law.

“A change needs to occur,” said Rep. Chris Bell. “We are losing too many lives as a result of police pursuits.”

Mississippi code section 45-1-43 states that law enforcement agencies need to have a written policy on pursuits, and they should address crossing over into other jurisdictions. Rep. Chris Bell is one of a handful of lawmakers who has unsuccessfully tried to make it more specific in recent years, but he plans to try again in January.

“I would love for the legislation to look like this next year. A, find solutions, training, provide more training for officers and police departments, provide money for new technology, advanced technology, and also have more common sense courses that speak to what you should pursue and what you shouldn’t pursue,” added Bell.

Changes to the law would likely move through the Judiciary B committees. So, we reached out to the chairman of Judiciary B in both the House and Senate. Rep. Nick Bain thinks one solution is raising the penalty for felony fleeing. The House voted to change it last year, but it didn’t go past that.

“Right now, the penalty of that is five years,” explained Rep. Nick Bain. “In the House, we voted last year to raise it up to 10 years. I think that’s a way to maybe go at this issue that we’re seeing in Jackson and other parts of the state.”

Sen. Joey Fillingane is open to conversations about amending the hot pursuit law.

“We seem to be having more and more of these, not just in the metro, but you know, all over the state really,” noted Fillingane. “And it’s certainly something that we would be open to having debates about maybe having even a hearing from local law enforcement as to see what their appetite would be for wanting to partner with the state and trying to come up with a uniform regulation to address these types of things.”

Most of the bills filed in recent years have proposed requiring agencies to not only have the written policies but to file them with the Office of Standards and Training, which falls under the Department of Public Safety.

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