It begins simple enough. Someone commits a traffic infraction, usually a minor incident, such as speeding, or running a red light. A police officer, noticing said infraction, puts on the lights and siren, and orders the person to the side of the road to receive a ticket. Said suspect ignores the flashing lights and proceeds on his merry way. The pursuit is on.
That sole cruiser is quickly joined by 2-3 more ground units, plus a helicopter, tailing the suspect's every move. The pursuit then makes its way over the streets, with the suspect often running red lights, making unsafe lane changes, speeding, and other violations of the vehicular code. All of these infractions are tallied up, usually by the secondary unit in the chase, to be used in the calculation of the suspect's sentence in their trial.
When the pursuit changes jurisdictions, usually because the suspect crosses city limits, one of two things happens. The first possibility is that the first jurisdiction will maintain management of the pursuit. If this happens, the pursuit continues as before, but usually with the addition of one car from the second jurisdition to monitor and help advise on the lay of the streets. The second possibility is that the first jurisdiction relinquishes the pursuit to the second, in which case cars from the first jurisdiction will slowly break off from the pursuit as they are replaced by cars from the second jurisdiction.
Thus the pursuit proceeds. The suspect will cross jurisdictions, rack up traffic infractions, sometimes by the dozen, and generally create a nuisance of himself. If the pursuit goes on for a long enough period of time, usually 15-30 minutes in the Los Angeles area, the news media will give chase as well.
Once the media gets involved, the chase becomes an event. Police Officers, Secretaries, Salespeople, CEOs, etc, will all pull TVs seemingly out of nowhere, and begin watching the fleeing felon. It seems to be mostly an LA phenomenon, but a police chase will bring down productivity like nothing else; people become glued to the TV set, listening as the TV station gives the play-by-play of the chase. The station will pull out their police expert, usually an ex-officer, to begin their commentary on what the police are probably going to do, what the suspect is probably going to do, and what bystanders should do if they find the suspect's car filling up their rear view mirror. Often times, those media reports will also cause
idiots people to gather on sidewalks, freeway overpasses, etc, so that they can see the chase go by. Silly move, because the suspect may be packing heat. But such is life in LA.
As with everything, all pursuits eventually come to a conclusion. Usually, there is a peaceful ending, with the suspect giving up and getting arrested, but there is that off chance that there is some sorf of incident to end the pursuit. The pursuit reaches Code 4 due to one of the following events:
- The suspect pulls over and gives up. This is the most likely scenario. After being chased for a period of time, the suspect realizes that there's nowhere to really run to, and thus, gives up. The suspect is then ordered out of the car, onto the ground, handcuffed, and then placed into the back of the patrol car.
- The officers perform a tactical maneuver. Often by using spike strips or the controversial PIT maneuver, the officers will attempt to incapacitate the vehicle so that the suspect no longer pose a danger to themself or others. Conclusion usually follows as the suspect, dazed by the loss of control, either gives up peacefully, or is forcively removed from the car.
- The suspect's car runs out of gas. There's only a finite amount of gas in that tank, and when it runs out, so does the suspect's luck. Usually, after the suspect runs out of gas, they give up peacefully, but that doesn't always occur, and they may try to wait the officers out.
- The suspect's car suffers a mechanical failure. Most cars are not designed to be driven at 90-100 MPH for any long period of time, and thus, the parts of the car are stressed to the breaking point and give up, sometimes causing the vehicle to catch on fire. At this point, the suspect will usually give up peacefully. Occasionally, the suspect will still try to run on foot and find a hiding place.
- There is a crash. Wanton disregard for traffic laws will only get someone so far before they hit something or someone. Usually because of the high rates of speed involved in such a crash, the suspect is usually incapacitated and apprehended out of the vehicle. There are times, though, when the suspect will run to try to escape from the police, or even carjack another vehicle and continue on the chase.
- The suspect gets out of the car and starts running. For whatever reason, perhaps because the car is about to break down, has already broken down, or because the suspect simply decides to chance it on foot, it becomes a foot pursuit. Such chases are usually short, with the suspect being wrestled to the ground by 3-4 officers. There are a few chases, though, in which the suspect makes it into a building and barricades themself, causing a situation requiring hours of negotiation.
- Suicide by cop. The suspect doesn't want to be taken alive, and either pulls a gun, or pretends to pull a gun on the officers. The result is that the suspect is dead, and the officers are distraught over the fact that they just killed someone.
- The suspect pulls over and sits. Such situations have been known to last for hours as careful negotiations take place. The police try to convince the suspect that giving up is the best thing to do, often by saying that if the suspect were to give up, all of the discomfort the suspect is feeling will go away. The S.W.A.T. team is called in to help negotiate, or give assistance if things get too out of hand. If the suspect barricades themself on a freeway, the freeway is shut down, creating miles of gridlock. Eventually, the suspect either does give up, they do something stupid and get themself killed, or the police decides that the best move is to rush the car and forcefully extract the driver.
Finally, the chase is over. The situation is now Code 4. The media breaks away after showing the "highlights" of the pursuit a few times, a few police officers stay on the scene to finish any work that needs to be performed. The suspect is carted off either to jail to wait for their trial if they're lucky, or the morgue if they do something overly stupid and wind up dead.
Now that the suspect is in jail, they face charges not only for the act of running from the police, but every other law they broke as well. Every light they run, every unsafe lane change, even the items they throw out of the car are factored into their sentence. Running from the police in California means spending at the very least six months in jail, plus time for all of the other traffic crimes committed on the jaunt from the law.
Most of those who run from the police are men, and they run simply out of fear. The vast majority only committed that initial infraction, or another minor crime, such as possession of marijuana. Very few of the pursuits involve a criminal who has committed a more serious offense such as murder or robbery.