Tuesday, August 7, 2012


DEAR SERGEANT AL: A follow-up question to yesterday about the police chasing fleeing suspects over state or international borders: I recently read that some police departments do not allow their officers to engage in high speed pursuits. Is this true? Why do police departments have these kinds of policies when they do NOT seem to be in the interest of justice to let criminals get away? —FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT EMERGENCIES BASCIALLY ADDRESS GENERAL GEOGRAPHICAL EXIGENCIES REPEATEDLY.
DEAR FLEE BAGGER: You are aiming for a trifecta with another excellent question. The short answer to your questions is MONEY TALKS. I don’t think some of us Americans fully realize the magnitude of our national fiscal situation, and how far reaching it is that it has affected everything from Washington all the way down to the local town hall. There are no funds and we are going desperately broke as we endlessly print our own paper money that is gradually becoming worthless. Car chases by the police causes accidents and accidents are torts, and torts must be settled with money, something governments no longer have.

Every time an officer engages in a high-speed vehicle pursuit he has to make a tactical decision that has repercussions in many different ways. First of all the number one cause of deaths of police officers in this country is not by an assassin’s bullet, but by police radio car. You may not want to tell an officer this at the moment someone has the gall to take off in front of him, but once he decides to chase his mortality rate quadruples at that moment. Even though it was the motorist’s decision to run, make no mistake, the officer is the police officer in charge of the scene and he with his supervisor is ultimately responsible for its outcome. Not only is he putting the fleeing motorist’s life in further danger, he also is putting innocent motorists and pedestrians as well as his own life in jeopardy. There are also the ancillary issues of those who survive with permanent injuries and property damage. So an officer at an instant moment has to make a smart decision whether to chase a motorist or not.

On the other hand, I skimmed the Internet and could not find any evidence of any police department that outright bans police chases. I don’t think there are that many if any, it’s just bad policy to print such a policy and advertise it to the general public. Evading the police is a serious felony, the kind any judge will make an example out of you at sentencing to everyone else who gets that stupid idea that maybe if they drive faster than the police, the police will just go away and not bother anymore. I’ve noticed since I moved to California where the police chase is KING like the mattress it's named after, that motorists are fully prepared for a car chase to come speeding by at a moment’s notice. The roads and freeways out here are oh SO conducive to a high-speed pursuit. When you hear a police helicopter buzzing by the first thing you assume is that they’re on another chase. Not only do Californians pull over to the right when in the presence of lights or sirens, but also they pull WAY OVER and outright STOP when emergency vehicles pass through. I remember how difficult it was to get east coast folks with my radio car just to move over when I came screaming by! They are much more careful out here at approaching and passing intersections. I’ve been living in Southern California for almost a year and thus far on four occasions drivers have sailed right on through very red lights on my very green, something I’ve never witnessed on the east coast in the same period of time, not even on my red light posts. Since the decision to chase a suspect at high speed ultimately falls into the hands of the patrol supervisor and then the tour or watch commander who is the supervisor’s boss, such decisions are made on a case by case basis as to whether the cops should engage in a chase. For a simple red light or speeding violation? Hmmm, maybe not. For bank robbery, kidnapping, murder, FBI most wanted, hmmm perhaps so.
So with all of this in mind, here are eight reasons why many police departments put a clamp-down or come just short of outright prohibiting police officers from engaging in high speed vehicle pursuits:

1.    They cost too much money in torts: If someone gets hurt regardless of who created the damage, a lawsuit will be filed. The police will be somehow found negligible or will have to settle.
2.   The police aren’t adequately experienced or trained: This is especially true of larger police forces. Since many recruits sign on with barely a driver’s license in hand let alone with not that much driving or legal drinking age time for that matter, a police chase might be an experience way over their heads. They usually give more senior officers such as those in the Highway Patrol or Motorcycle Unit more leeway when engaging in a high-speed pursuit. A county or state trooper recruit is more opt to get a more sophisticated driver training experience since they are more opt to be behind a wheel more often than a city police rookie who gets to work by subway then spends most of their early career on a foot post.
3.   Too dangerous on a crowded city street: Big city police forces and east coast verses west coast will be more restrained since the collateral damage of a police chase is likely to be more severe in a crowded narrow east coast city street urban setting than in suburbia, farmland, or the wide highways and byways of the west coast.
4.  Not enough horsepower: Have you checked out the latest police rides lately? A Chevy Impala with a 6 cylinder. A Ford Fusion Hybrid. Don’t get all excited now! If I do traffic duty I even gotta tool around in a Cushman or Prius! That’s the equivalent to Kent McCord and Martin Milner cruising around in Adam 12 in a 1969 Plymouth Valiant with a slant 6 wrapped in police. Are you kidding me? Where is that 1974 Dodge Monaco sedan with the 440 hemi and four barrel that the Blues Brothers used when I need it? They just don’t make ‘em like they used to. And if I’m up against a brand new ‘Vette, or Camaro, or ‘Stang will I even have a chance?
5.   Not enough equipment and whatever we have is expensive and scarce as it is: Speaking of police cars the department has no money for new ones. It's enough that the guy we locked up the other day for pot possession came back and rolled over all our radio cars in revenge! So if whatever we have left breaks, that’s it, and no way am I jogging to any radio run!

6.  Innocent civilians might get hurt: God forbid I swerve the wrong way and a child walking home from school gets killed. And for what? Because some dirtbag panicked thinking his license might be suspended. It’s just not worth it.

7.   The cop might be disciplined or lose his job if found negligent: Speaking of dirtbag with a suspended license, to go through all that aggravation when there are bigger fish to fry out here on patrol, it’s just not worth it for me. Feeding and housing my wife and kids is more important. Let ‘em drive on like a jackass. I’ll get him another day.
8.   The cop might lose his life: does anything more need to be added?

FLEE BAGGER, just because a police department has a no pursuit policy doesn’t mean anyone should take that for granted. Many departments leave it up to the patrol supervisor, tour, watch, or platoon commander, duty captain, inspector, or chief to decide if the officer should continue the pursuit. When you do see the police engaged in one, do not necessarily think that the reasons for it are trivial. Please remember that regardless of the reasons, the police are trying hard to save lives and keep us all safe, which is no small task at hand. 

Suggested Reading:

What is a CARMAGEDDON and when will it happen? 
Am I allowed to walk on a highway?
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The definition of a “Concours” car and event
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What is the new national terror alert warning?
Taking photographs at off-limits tourist landmarks .


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Sgt. Al here. I welcome your comments, ideas, and suggestions. You have questions about the police, and I'm interested in hearing what you have to say as a citizen. Thanks!