More supervisors listening in on police chases

Paige Hewitt writes in the Chronicle about HPD's adding some items to its chase policy.

Here is a post I did on my blog and in the Chronicle's blog pages about it:

I read today's article about HPD revising it's pursuit policies. In short, it sounds to me like it just adds more supervisors into the mix. Supervisors are supposed to be monitoring the radio regardless of what is happening on the streets. When a chase starts, supervisors are supposed to be listening. If he/she feels the chase is getting too risky then they already have the power to terminate the pursuit. Don't forget that the officer, who is involved in the chase, also has the discretion to terminate if necessary. Please allow me to present some basic facts and arguments concerning police chases that many in the media and public may not know (or simply may not care).
Too many people get hurt/killed in police chases.
-Well yes. One officer or innocent civilian injured or killed is one too many. Personally, I don't care about the crook who is running. If they hurt or kill themselves and nobody else, no big loss in my opinion. The sad reality is that unless we are given the technology that allows us to disable the engine at the start of the chase, the high number of criminals in Harris County will continue to run. Handcuffing the police is not the answer.
Forbidding chasing for traffic violations and minor non-violent crimes would save lives.
-No, it wouldn't. If that were the case, why would anyone bother stopping when being pulled over to begin with? That just gives more power to the criminals and it puts the public at their mercy. Would anyone dare suggest the police not show up at a hostage crises? After all, if the criminal is allowed to escape, he/she may not have to take hostages leaving innocent people at the mercy of the criminal.
Police could simply run license plates and find the driver later.
-Not necessarily. If the car is already stolen, what good is running the plate going to do? In many parts of town, usually where most of the chases occur, the person driving the car is not the registered owner. Especially with a high illegal immigrant population, someone obtains the car and sells it under the table to an illegal immigrant or an unlicensed driver without ever changing the title over. On top of that, finding the car later on doesn't mean finding the driver. It's hard to get a good look at someone's face when they are fleeing in a vehicle.
Why risk officer and public chasing someone who ran a red light?
-Most often the reason the person is fleeing isn't because they ran a red light. Usually they are trying to conceal something else. I can cite two good examples off the bat. I remember one night an officer tried to stop a car for speeding. The car took off and eventually crashed into a tree or a ditch and the occupants took off on foot. The driver was caught. It also turned out the owner of the car had just been kidnapped by those two. He was bound and gagged in the trunk. Had that officer not been allowed to chase what he originally thought was just a speeder, there would have been a homicide later on. One day I tried to stop a car and it took off. Turned out the two inside the car had just robbed a store and I interrupted their getaway. The passenger was caught that day and the driver turned himself in a month later. Now they are both in prison.
Is the death of an innocent citizen worth catching the bad guy?
-Of course not. However, no officer who gets involved in a car chase wants an innocent person to get hurt or killed. There is no way we can foresee tragic endings. If we could do that, then we would all play the powerball when the jackpot reaches $1 million. Unfortunately, these things do happen and will continue until these people are stopped from running altogether. Now before you mistakenly criticize me for being dismissive, let me point out something: Everyone who gets into their car everyday and drives to work takes a risk of being involved in a car accident. Drunk drivers cripple and injure far more innocent citizens than police chases. Do you argue for a return to prohibition? When you walk into a bank, or a convenience store, you take a risk of being present when the establishment is robbed. Again, more people are hurt or killed in robberies than in police chases.
The public is safe when a chase is terminated.
-This is patently false! I have never seen an instance where a pursuit was terminated that the criminal slowed down and obeyed the traffic laws. When the police stop chasing, the criminal will continue fleeing at high speeds. What would you say in an instance where the police terminated the pursuit for public safety, yet the criminal kept driving 80+ through a neighborhood and killed someone down the road? This has happened before and the police were criticized for terminating the pursuit to begin with!
In closing, car chases are one of the most dangerous tasks of law enforcement. We have to keep in mind our safety, the safety of the public, and try to figure out why the bad guy is running to start with. The Chronicle points out that there have been about 7 deaths in 900 vehicle pursuits (over what time span I'd like to know). However, I pointed out two instances where one life was spared from a kidnapping, and who knows how many lives were spared when we caught those two armed robbers. Think about it -- more lives are spared when these criminals are stopped and captured. I know that doesn't bring comfort to the families of people killed in chases. However, talk to the family of someone killed by a criminal that was allowed to escape and see if it's any easier.

Posted by Jason @ 09/22/07 11:08 AM | Print |

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