Report says it's time to put the brakes on most high-speed chases

LOS ANGELES -- A report this week by a grand jury in California strongly urges the police to ease up on high-speed chases, which put bystanders at risk. High-speed chases happen almost daily, sometimes reaching more than 100 miles per hour. 

High above just about every police pursuit on the streets of Los Angeles is KCBS helicopter reporter Stu Mundel.

"My biggest fear is always that somebody is really going to get hurt or die or there's going to be, you know, some extremely innocent person injured," Mundel said.

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KCBS reporter Stu Mundel

CBS News

His fear is for good reason, says a new L.A. County grand jury report. It analyzed more then 400 police chases over a year. One in ten resulted in someone being injured, and three people died, reports CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas. 

Nationwide, over 90 percent of car chases were in response to non-violent crimes.

Every near-miss raises the likelihood of what happened to 15-year-old Jack Phoenix; He was killed while crossing the street by a suspected car thief fleeing the LAPD at 90 miles per hour.  

"The LAPD needs to acknowledge what they did and apologize," said Nick Phoenix, Jack's father.

"Do you think these pursuits even need to happen?" Yuccas asked.

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Nick Phoenix

CBS News

"It's incredibly dangerous for a car to just tear through town like that," he said. "So they're going to chase the car and encourage that? It's crazy."

Humberto Jimenez provides air support for the California Highway Patrol. He says many suspects are just out for fame.

"It makes absolutely no sense when you're putting your life in danger, other people's life in danger," he said.

"Like they have nothing to lose so they might as well be famous or notorious for this incident?" Yuccas asked.

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A police chase comes to an end.

CBS News

"I think some people do think that way," he said. "And it's not fair."

The grand jury faulted a lack of proper training and found that most pursuits are unnecessary.

Officers instinctively want to catch criminals, but if a suspect is not considered dangerous, it may be best to peel off instead of continuing the chase.