The Kansas Highway Patrol’s chase policy does not distinguish between chases involving traffic violators and those suspected of violent crimes, such as murder or rape.

The Wichita Eagle looked at the policy for a story Sunday after a trooper earlier this month chased a speeding driver in the city, resulting in an accident that killed three people.

The newspaper said the patrol’s policy appears to be more lenient than that of Wichita police and the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, although neither agency would say if its officers or deputies would have responded as the trooper did.

The Highway Patrol has said the trooper appeared to follow policy in the Nov. 15 accident. The patrol’s policy allows troopers to chase traffic violators into urban areas when traffic is light and road conditions are favorable.

According to the patrol, the car being pursued in the Nov. 15 chase had been clocked going 83 mph in a 60 mph zone on Interstate 135.

The 1 a.m. chase lasted about five minutes, with the fleeing car leaving the interstate and hitting another vehicle, the patrol said.

The fleeing driver and two people in the other vehicle were killed.

Another woman in the second car was injured.

Highway Patrol Maj. Alan Stoecklein said the agency’s policy allows troopers to pursue traffic violators who keep going.

The policy tells troopers to continually consider whether conditions merit ending the chase.

He wouldn’t comment specifically on the Nov. 15 accident because the agency’s investigation is ongoing. He said the agency reviews all chases, “from the smallest pursuits to a tragedy such as this.”

Wichita police policy puts specific restrictions on pursuits involving traffic violators, saying officers should be more reluctant to begin — and faster to end — those pursuits than they are with motorists suspected of committing or threatening violent crimes.

It says even when the safety risk in a pursuit of a traffic violator is low, officers can chase only when there is a “substantial threat to public safety if capture is delayed” and only when it “clearly outweighs risk of pursuit.”

High risk factors include frequent intersecting streets, heavy traffic and speeds of twice the posted limit or exceeding 80 mph.

The Sedgwick County sheriff’s policy allows pursuits of traffic offenders when a deputy can freely chase in a designated lane on a limited-access road or on rural roads with limited intersections.

Based on information provided so far, two criminologists disagree on whether the Nov. 15 chase was justified.

“Most of the major departments in the country don’t chase for speeders because it’s not worth the risk to the public to apprehend the speeder,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina professor of criminology who specializes in assessing high-risk police situations.

However, Brian Withrow, a Wichita State University associate professor of criminal justice and a former Texas state trooper, said the chase was justified because the driver was clocked going 83 mph, making her dangerous.

Also, he noted traffic was light early that Saturday morning.

“There’s really no question that the person should be pursued in that context,” Withrow said.