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NYPD Chief Instructs Cops to Take Care With Car Chases

A memo from Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey urges safety first. It comes after a string of crash injuries and a CITY expose of a surge in vehicle pursuits.

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NYPD officers race past traffic along Dekalb Avenue in Brooklyn, Aug. 3, 2023.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey has issued an internal memo to a half-dozen top police officials instructing them to ensure their officers are familiar with the department’s policy on vehicle pursuits.

The memo, which reiterates rules currently on the books, comes in the wake of THE CITY’s reporting that NYPD vehicle chases have skyrocketed in the first half of the year — with more recorded in the first six months of 2023 than in the prior five years combined. 

It reminds NYPD leaders that “a vehicle pursuit must be terminated whenever the risks to members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if the suspect is not immediately apprehended.”

Some chases have led to civilian injuries, including two high-profile incidents that occurred last weekend in Manhattan. 

On Saturday morning, five Staten Island police officers were injured in the course of pursuing an alleged minivan thief, and on Sunday evening, two kids — ages 1 and 5 — were among the passengers in an SUV that flipped over when a suspected car thief crashed into it while cops were on his tail. 

This Tuesday, a 54-year-old woman riding her bike was clipped and critically injured by a suspect fleeing “detectives investigating illegal firearms,” according to the Daily News, in a chase that began on the Lower East Side and went across Manhattan into the West Village.

Maddrey’s second-in-command, Chief of Patrol John Chell, has publicly extolled vehicle pursuits as a crime-fighting tactic.

“We’re pretty good at it, and we’re going to continue stopping cars and bikes that are breaking the law,” Chell told WNBC-TV in a segment the NYPD posted Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The Lieutenants Benevolent Association shared Maddrey’s memo with its members — and added its own warning about “possible criminal and civil repercussions” for those who engage in or approve pursuits that result in injuries, according to a copy of the letter obtained by THE CITY. 

The lieutenants’ union missive also opined that while many of the current district attorneys “will not proactively prosecute individuals for most crimes emanating from or initiated by vehicle pursuits,” those prosecutors will “not hesitate” to charge police officers with crimes stemming from those pursuits.

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