End Police Pursuits Families Campaign Demands

  1. We call for an immediate end to the systematic over-policing of racially minoritised and working-class young people by road traffic officers.

A recent report published by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) confirms that a record high number of road traffic fatalities involving Greater Manchester Police (GMP) took place in 2021/22. In total, eight people lost their lives in six separate road traffic incidents, the majority of which involved pursuits by GMP officers. This is on top of the three deaths that took place in 2020/21 [1]. Understanding why some drivers fail to stop for the police necessitates a reckoning not only with the distinctive psychology of young drivers [2], who constitute the majority involved in such pursuits, but also an understanding of the wider context of the systematic, racist and classist over-policing of young people in our communities. In Greater Manchester, and reflecting wider patterns in policing, a disproportionate number of the drivers killed in police pursuits were either Black or Brown or from Gypsy, Roma, or Traveller communities. Accordingly, we call for an immediate end to the systematic over-policing of racially minoritised and working-class young people by police, and particularly road traffic officers, in Greater Manchester.

  1. We call for the immediate prohibition of police initiating pursuits in circumstances involving non-violent offences or minor traffic violations, and for the APP guidelines to be revised accordingly. 

As the families of people that have lost their lives following police pursuits, we note that IOPC investigations and coroner’s inquests have found that our loved ones died following police pursuits in which the drivers of the pursued vehicles were suspected of minor traffic violations or other nonviolent offences. In each of our experiences, police officers testified that they had decided to initiate a risky, high speed pursuit after the pursued drivers failed to stop when signalled to do so for a relatively minor offence including, variously, overtaking a vehicle too closely, turning right on a red light, and being suspected of driving a stolen vehicle. The prevalence of this phenomenon is confirmed by studies which have found that ‘the most common reasons for police initiating pursuits are traffic violations or general concerns about the manner in which the pursued driver was driving, rather than suspicions of any other crimes.’ [3] In such circumstances, we believe that police pursuit tactics are unnecessary, disproportionate, and unjustified and will inevitably result in serious injuries, loss of life, and great trauma to affected families and communities.

We have significant concerns about the discretion afforded to police drivers in determining when to initiate a pursuit. The Authorised Professional Practice (APP) guidelines govern police conduct including in the area of police driving and pursuits. The APP acknowledges that police pursuits place members of the public ‘under a significant degree of risk’ and that, ‘wherever possible, trying to prevent a pursuit from taking place must be a primary consideration.’ Specifically, the APP instructs officers to consider whether the pursuit is ‘justified, proportionate and conforms to the principle of least intrusion.’ In addition, pursuing officers and incident managers are instructed to continually assess whether the pursuit is necessary when ‘balanced against [the] threat, risk and harm for which the subject driver is being pursued.’ [4] However, these are merely guidelines and, in reality, officers are afforded tremendous discretion in determining whether a pursuit should be initiated.

Accordingly, we are calling for an immediate revision to the APP guidelines prohibiting police from initiating pursuits in circumstances involving nonviolent offences or minor traffic violations. This call is supported by studies conducted in Britain and other national contexts – including Canada, Australia, and the United States – where the risks associated with high speed police pursuit have been deemed too great to justify the immediate physical apprehension of motorists who flee from the police for suspected theft or minor traffic offences. [5]  On this basis, public officials in major cities such as Washington D.C. and Cincinnati have revised their pursuit policies to restrict the circumstances under which pursuits can be initiated resulting in significantly fewer pursuits, collisions, deaths and injuries. [6] 

  1. We call for the recording and transparent publication of all traffic stop data.  

The growing number of deaths from police pursuit is directly related to the over-policing of racially minoritised and working-class young people by road traffic officers. In contrast to some street-level stop-and-search laws, road traffic officers have the power to stop drivers without reasonable suspicion that they have done something wrong under section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. This affords officers tremendous discretion in who they choose to stop and why. Even more troubling, road traffic stops are not routinely recorded leaving the public with virtually no police data on how often the power is used, or why, and who it is being used against. 

In 2021, concerns that police were disproportionately stopping Black people resulted in the initiation of a pilot in which the Metropolitan Police became the first force to record the ethnicity of drivers stopped by its officers. Findings indicated that Black people were 56% more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts. The pilot has since been scrapped. Accordingly, we call for the recording and transparent publication of all traffic stop data by Greater Manchester Police.  

  1. We call for overhead motorway signs be changed as soon as a police pursuit enters the motorway system

Police pursuits that enter the motorway system pose a significant threat to life. Currently motorway signage is only altered when the pursued driver enters the wrong side of the motorway to alert drivers to the risks. It is vital that other road users are aware of an active pursuit so that they are alert to the risks and have time to respond. Accordingly, we call for the mandatory changing of motorway signage as soon as a pursued driver enters the motorway in any direction.

  1. We call for officers to carry out their duty of care and commitment to ‘keep the public safe’ by prioritising the safety of the public, passengers in a pursued vehicle and the driver of the pursued vehicle ahead of the desire to apprehend suspects.

Police pursuits pose a high risk that can result in death or serious injury to the drivers and passengers of pursued vehicles as well as members of the public in the immediate vicinity. To pursue without due regard for the driver, passengers, and the broader public, demonstrates GMP’s lack of care and consideration for public safety. Accordingly, we call for the reinforcement of APP guidelines to clearly establish that officers must prioritise this duty of care and commitment to public safety over the apprehension of suspects. We also call for all local police guidelines on police pursuit to be brought into conformity with national guidelines. 

This duty of care should extend to the immediate aftermath of any road traffic incident resulting from a police pursuit. It is vital that officers prioritise the safety and well-being of those that may have been injured before seeking to apprehend any suspects. Despite APP guidelines to this effect, GMP officers have been involved in pursuits which led to collisions in which officers have opted to pursue drivers on foot as opposed to stopping to assess whether there were casualties that required medical attention. Such decisions can prevent critical information being conveyed to medical professionals with potential impacts for life and survivability. Accordingly, we want to see greater clarity in APP guidelines about the requirement to prioritise the preservation of life and treat injuries over the apprehension of suspects.

  1. We condemn the state agencies and other supposedly ‘independent’ investigatory bodies tasked with holding the police to account and call for immediate reparative action to support families who have lost loved ones to police pursuit. 

No one expects to lose their loved one to police pursuit whether they were a driver, passenger, or a passerby/pedestrian. However, the reality is that the death of our loved ones was only the beginning of our suffering. We are appalled by the conduct of the various state agencies and other supposedly ‘independent’ bodies tasked with providing support and investigating pursuits in order to hold police to account. The only formal support comes in the form of a police-provided family liaison officer though not all of us were even extended this service. The IOPC is responsible for the investigation which is often led by former police officers, unduly lengthy in duration, and rarely results in findings of misconduct. A coroner’s inquest cannot be held until the IOPC has concluded the investigation which means that some of us have waited two, even three, years for inquests to take place. All the while our lives and grieving processes are put on hold. 

We believe these so-called ‘support systems’ and processes of investigation only serve to further perpetuate harms and should be replaced by truly independent bodies informed by the experience of those affected by police violence. Inquests should take place within stricter time frames and police should be required to attend in-person as opposed to online which was customary in many of our cases. We also believe that inquests should provide families with access to all information, the ability to draw upon the insight of independent experts, and publicly-funded legal aid. In light of the complexities of all cases where lives are lost following police pursuit and the right of families to have their cases fully and thoroughly investigated, inquests should always be allotted ample time to be completed. We also support the ‘Hillsborough Law’ which called for ‘a legal “duty of candour” on public authorities, officials, and public servants to tell the truth at official investigations and inquiries’. [7] Those called on to give expert testimony or deliver reports should also be vetted to establish their independence from the police and IOPC.

Northern Police Monitoring Project
Copwatch Network UK
Bristol Copwatch
Imran Khan & Partners


[1] Independent Office for Police Conduct, ‘Annual deaths during or follow police contact report – 2022/23,’ 28 July 2023. For force specific data see the time series tables (ODS format) accessible online: https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/publications/annual-deaths-during-or-following-police-contact-report-202223 

[2] Bridie Scott-Parker, Barry Watson, and Mark King. ‘Understanding the Psychosocial Factors Influencing the Risky Behaviour of Young Drivers’. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour 12 (1 November 2009): 470–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trf.2009.08.003.

[3] Quote taken from Independent Police Complaints Commission, Police Road Traffic Incidents: A Study Involving Serious and Fatal Injuries (London: IPCC, July 2007), p. 24-25. Also see, D. Best, Fatal Pursuit: Investigation of Road Traffic Incident (RTIs) Involving Police Vehicles, 1998-2001: Identifying Common Factors and the Lessons to be Learned (London: Police Complaints Authority, 2002); D. Best and K. Eves, Following Fatal Pursuit: A Follow-up Assessment of Road Traffic Incidents, 2001-2002. Second Report into Fatal Road Traffic Incidents Involving Police Vehicles (London: Police Complaints Authority, 2004); D. Best and K. Eves, Police Pursuits in Wales: The Results of a One-year Monitoring Exercise in the four Welsh Police Forces, 2002-2003 (London: Police Complaints Authority, 2004). 

[4] College of Policing, APP (authorised professional practice) (2022). Accessed online: https://www.college.police.uk/app/roads-policing/police-pursuits 

[5] See Best, 2002; Best and Eves, 2004; Best, 2002; Best and Eves, 2004; Gabi Hoffman and Paul Mazerolle, ‘Police pursuits in Queensland: research, review and reform,’ Policing: An International Journal, vol. 28, no.3 (2005): 530-545; Nicola Christie, ‘Managing the safety of police pursuits: A mixed method case study of the Metropolitan Police Service, London, Safety Science 129 (Sept 2020). 

[6] G. P. Alpert, Police Pursuit: Policies and Training (National Institute of Justice, US Dept of Justice, USA, 1997)

[7] Lynn Sudbury-Riley, ‘’Hillsborough Law’: bereaved families let down again,’ University of Liverpool Management School, 8 December 2023. Accessed online: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/management/blog/research/hillsborough-law-bereaved-families-let-down-again/