Monona moves to reinstate police pursuit policy after fatal New Year’s Day crash

A little more than two weeks after a Monona police pursuit ended in the death of three fleeing suspects[1], the City Council agreed Tuesday that the mayor and police chief should end a temporary policy change that had restricted when police could engage in such pursuits. Council members and the mayor said that since the Jan.

1 incident, they’d received far more feedback from residents in favor of returning to the police department’s policy on when officers are allowed to engage in vehicle chases. Under that policy[2], police are allowed to pursue suspects in cases in which they pose a danger to public safety, even if they have not just committed or are likely to commit a violent felony.

In Madison and some other Madison-area departments, police are only allowed to engage in vehicle pursuits of fleeing suspects in the case of such violent felonies.

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Dramatic footage shows police ramming a BMW in the middle of the M6. Several marked and unmarked police cars were seen surrounding the vehicle and colliding with it. The video was filmed by Chris Gibney, 32.

Chris said: “We [my driver and I] weren’t aware of what was going on. We thought there was an incident further ahead. “One of the police cars almost hit my van but thankfully we were crawling along at the time.” The black BMW was stopped at around 3:30 near Stretton and fled police onto the M56 and then the M6. The police were able to stop the vehicle near junction 20 at Lymm.

A 34-year-old man from Manchester was arrested on suspicion of failing to stop for officers, using a cloned number plate, dangerous driving, drunk driving and two counts of drug driving. Chris reported seeing three or four officers removing a man from the vehicle. He said that the man was taken into the silver unmarked car in the footage and that there was a dog handler present.

Chris said: “We heard four or five good bangs and then he was swept up and shifted straight away. “He was taken into the silver car, there was a dog handler on the scene too, they put him in the silver car and sped off. “I’ve seen this kind of thing on TV, but you never think it will happen to you.” After the incident, Chris said that there was a short cleanup operation and the outside lane was reopened to traffic.

“Without consequences, where’s the deterrent?” asked Ald. Patrick DePula. “Are we to just give up and not assign any sort of culpability to those that willfully engage in reckless and lawless behavior?” The decision came after nearly two hours of testimony by Police Chief Brian Chaney and discussion by the council.

Data from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and police departments from Madison and six other Madison-area municipalities show Monona was engaged in the most police pursuits by far in recent years — although it’s not clear that the departments are all reporting their numbers the same way.

State Department of Justice names officers involved in triple fatal vehicle pursuit Jan./pp1

Monona logged 249 pursuits from 2019 through 2023. The sheriff’s office, which patrols areas not covered by municipal police departments, participated in the next most, or 213. Madison saw 112 during that same period.

But Chaney said being surrounded by Wisconsin’s second-largest city comes with some drawbacks, and “(w)e have a problem here in Dane County with people fleeing from police.” He said the decision not to pursue a suspect could result in more danger to the public than if police do try to pull over a vehicle, such as when a driver appears extremely intoxicated. “Reckless driving, drunk driving, drugged driving, dangerous driving kills every day,” he said. “In this country it has taken so many lives.”

Fatal crash

The Jan.

1 incident began when Monona Sgt. Adam Nachreiner tried to pull over a “suspicious” vehicle for reckless driving just after 9 p.m. at Nichols Road and Monona Drive and the vehicle fled, the state Department of Justice has said. Its Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the incident.

Monona police chief says pursuit policy will 'focus on the big fish' after crash that killed 3

Sometime after, Dane County Sheriff’s Sgt.

Jonathon Matz deployed a tire-deflation device in an attempt to stop the vehicle, and the vehicle crashed into a tree in the town of Cottage Grove near the corner of Femrite Drive and Buckeye Road, about 5 miles away from where the chase started. All three people in the vehicle, Rashad Lamar Nelson and Aaron Javon Willis, both 30, and Aajayah Monai Ray, 19, died at the scene. Chaney told the council that because of DCI’s ongoing investigation, he could not release more details about the incident, but he did say that the reckless driving had been taking place in a school parking lot and that he’d reviewed all the dashcam and body camera video from the incident and that Nachreiner acted “reasonably” and in accordance with the department’s policy and the law.

Ald. Richard Bernstein favored waiting until DCI’s investigation was completed and made public before returning to the department’s current policy, but his effort to convince the rest of the council and Mayor Mary O’Connor of that failed. Chaney said some of his department’s pursuits over the past five years — including 15 of 59 in 2023 — were terminated by officers for a variety of reasons.

Others were ones started by another agency that Monona joined, he said. He said his agency also doesn’t specifically tally the number of times his department would have been authorized to pursue a vehicle under department policy but chose not to.

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Reporting agencies

Of the agencies that reported pursuit data to the Wisconsin State Journal, only one, Verona, included a tally of vehicles that fled a police stop or attempted stop but were not pursued. That agency recorded 28 pursuits from 2019 to 2023 and 48 instances in which vehicles fled but were not pursued from late 2020 through 2023.

Monona’s police pursuit policy has changed at least twice in the past three years, most recently in November 2022, when it was broadened to allow officers to pursue suspects in cases in which the suspects had not just committed or were expected to soon commit a violent felony. The policy has a number of other requirements aimed at ensuring the danger to the public from a pursuit is not greater than the danger of letting suspects flee. But after the Jan.

1 crash, the city decided to temporarily restrict chases to cases in which a violent felony is believed to have been committed or is about to be committed. Police pursuit policies for Stoughton and Sun Prairie also do not require a violent felony to have been committed or be imminent. Verona’s 23-year-old policy requires police to pursue a vehicle in a violent felony situation, but Police Chief David Dresser said that in practice, officers are far more restrictive in whom they chase.

Officers have been trained to terminate pursuits or not pursue at all “unless officers have reason to believe the occupants of the vehicle have been involved in the commission of a felony or there is a threat of great bodily harm or death,” Dresser said. The Washington, D.C-based Police Executive Research Forum, which conducts research and makes recommendations on police policy, recommends that departments “should adopt restrictive vehicle pursuit philosophies that permit pursuits only for a limited and serious set of circumstances” and that pursuits should only be allowed “for violent crimes and where failure to immediately apprehend the suspect presents an imminent threat to the public based on the suspect’s criminal actions.”

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  1. ^ the death of three fleeing suspects (
  2. ^ that policy (