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Childrens' deaths prompt calls to rein in high-speed police chases

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Steve Perez/Detroit News/AP

(Read caption) Detroit Police officers check out the damage to a car involved in a police chase on Wednesday, in Detroit. A driver accelerated to more than 70 m.p.h. on a residential street in Detroit while fleeing officers before striking and killing two young children and injuring three other children and an adult, police said.

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After the death of two children in a police car chase in Detroit, Mich., an activist group is calling a change in high-speed chase tactics.

The Michigan chapter of the National Action Network said Thursday that chase protocols need to include measures that “place a premium on human life.”

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The chair of the Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee also asked for an investigation into why the high-speed chase began. (Aiyana jones was 7-year-old girl when she was fatally shot in Detroit by an officer in a 2010 police raid.)

On Wednesday, a brother and sister ages three and six were struck and killed by a Chevrolet Camaro fleeing police pursuit. The chase lasted 75 seconds. The officers lost sight of the car shortly before it crashed killing the two children, injuring two other children and one adult. Police later arrested the driver and passenger from the car and recovered a handgun.

Every year more than 300 people die during the police pursuits in the United States, according to federal statistics. In 2013 the number was 322 including 208 occupants of the pursued vehicle, 105 occupants of other vehicles, eight bystanders and one chasing police officer.

In 2010 USA Today reported that innocent bystanders account for one-third of those killed in high-speed police case.

Police forces say putting an end to the practice will have its own problems.

“Everybody would take off,” a high-ranking law enforcement official in Western  New York told Buffalo News. “Nobody would stop.”

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Ken Novak, a criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who has studied police decision making and discretion for more than 20 years told USA Today that everyone agrees that fleeing from police is wrong, but “it's the police's responsibility to make sure both their officers as well as the public remain safe while they are doing their job.”

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This report includes material from the Associated Press.