KCK police department refuses to release chase policy - KCTV5

KCK police department refuses to release chase policy

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KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

KCTV5 is working to get answers to a lot of questions about a police chase that killed a woman in Kansas City, KS.

Graciela Olivas, 62, was killed when a police chase ended in a crash at 34th Street and Shawnee Drive. She is the mother of KCTV5 News Reporter Sandra Olivas.

Police say they chased the suspect because of a traffic violation in a high drug area. When KCTV5 asked for a copy of the department's chase policy, we were turned down.

The death of the innocent victim is one example of why many across the country are now pushing back against high-speed chases.

Graciela Olivas died hours after her car was hit during the police chase. Investigators say 28-year-old Christopher Stewart blew a stop sign and hit her car.

"It's so unfortunate, but also pretty normal. That happens way too often," said University of Missouri-Kansas City Criminal Justice Professor Ken Novak.

Novak said at least 60 percent of police departments across the U.S. are now reviewing and changing their pursuit policies.

"Over time there has been a move toward more restrictive policies as to when a pursuit should occur and, when it does occur, how long it should last," Novak said.

Kansas City, MO's Police Department has done just that. They are having their patrol officers talk to a supervisor to decide whether to continue a chase. Read more on their chase policy here.

KCTV5 asked Kansas City, KS, Police for a copy of its pursuit policy after Monday's deadly chase. The department declined to provide it, claiming "the disclosure is not in the public's interest, would interfere with prospective law enforcement action and criminal investigations."

"Pursuit policies, use of force policies, general policies that govern the operation of an organization tend to be public domain and tend to be accessible by the public," Novak said.

There is now a bill making its way through the Kansas Legislature that would increase penalties for people who repeatedly flee from police. House Bill 2442 was authored in part by Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson.

"We had a case of someone violating this seven or eight times, but they're still only looking at less than two years of a sentence. What this would be looking at is maybe a six-to-10-year sentence if they keep violating it," Thompson said. "If it wasn't for the death in this case, he would not be looking at much more time."

The bill is now in committee, but it's too early to tell whether it'll get a full house vote.

The suspect police were pursuing is being held in the Wyandotte County Jail.

A close family friend of the Olivas family said everyone is overcome with emotion and grief.

"Graciela didn't deserve this and her kids didn't deserve this. It's just horrible you know," Elva Hernandez said.

The Olivas family issued this statement saying, "Graciela was a beloved wife, mother and grandmother. She was the center of our lives and words cannot express our immense grief and sadness."

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