LAPD Putting The Brakes On Chases

CAROUSEL - Blog - The Green Eye

Gaining an infamous reputation as a lead-footed force, the Los Angeles Police Department leads the nation in dangerous high speed chases, averaging more than two a day, and 60 percent of the chases start over minor infractions like broken tail lights.

As CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports, Henry and Anna Polivoda were active retirees until they were hit while out for a walk in their Los Angeles neighborhood by a car fleeing police because of missing license tags.

"He hit a Mercedes and then he hit my parents, kept going, hit five other cars before he come to a stop," describes Stephanie Yablow.

The LAPD started reviewing their procedures after a toddler was killed and then the final straw: 3-week-old Harley Medellin's arm was ripped off after his parent's SUV was broadsided during a high speed chase.

Tuesday, LAPD Chief William Bratton convinced the police commission to adopt strict new guidelines that would limit pursuits to fleeing felons or people visibly driving under the influence.

But from Web sites that chronicle what they call "the best high speed chases" to companies that send out pager messages alerting customers when a pursuit is underway, the police chase has become perverse entertainment - starring the person being chased - on local and coast to coast TV.

"They're not dumb. They don't put anything on the air that they think will not be watched. They put these car chases on the air because they have research that shows that people enjoy them," says TV critic Howard Rosenberg.

While the new Los Angeles police policy will mean fewer chases and no doubt save lives, it may be too late to pull the plug on viewer interest in what can be gruesome TV.