Saturday, August 01, 2015

Half of Those Killed in Police Chases, Are Not Those Being Pursued

Link to Video

"High speed chases kill over three hundred Americans every year. At least half of those are innocent victims who were not the object of the chase."

So blare the headlines of a recent study published by USA Today and picked up by every major news outlet in America. According to these statistics and the subsequent reports by media who have diligently investigated them, police chases must be curtailed and stopped before more innocent people are killed. 

Calling for an end to police chases or at the least severe restrictions of police chases, is seemingly a noble thought to most. We need to put an end to these needless deaths and the obvious causation factors and the prominent evidence involved, points directly at the police as the prominent cause. It is the fault of police nationally that all of this is happening, therefore, we need to curtail the ability of police to continue to jeopardize the lives of innocent people.  Or so it seems.

Once again, the argument in support of a media driven representation, is that statistics don't lie. However,  the fact that liars use statistics to consistently shape the conversation in favor of their skewed representations, is conveniently swept aside and lost on the public at large. 

There are a number of dynamics at play in the decision making process involving police pursuits nationally. Police departments around the country have already been coerced into severely restricting their pursuit polices; however, to accept the premises currently being represented by the media, the only resolution to end the needless deaths of innocent people in police chases,  appears to be to end all police chases period, except in extremely limited circumstances.

Either that. or outright eliminating all police chases altogether seems to be the goal. 

On the surface that may seem like a solution to the manifest problem of innocent people being killed in police chases, but in reality all that is accomplished by a policy such as that, is a transferal of threat from one action to another. In other words, every action has an equal and opposing action or reaction and such is the case concerning policy making decisions in  law enforcement locally and nationally every day.

As a police officer for thirty years, I have more than ample experience with police chases. As both an officer and as a supervisor and as a watch commander. I was involved directly and indirectly in countless police pursuits over my career. Decisions have to be made sometimes for the benefit of public safety. Those decisions by police are made or should be made with the best interest of the public at large as the foremost determining factor. Sometimes those decisions by police have deadly consequences, Hopefully those consequences are deadly for the criminal. However decisions made by police should never openly threaten the safety of the public, particularly just so the furtherance of an ill conceived forced perspective can be continued.

Decisions made concerning police chases have been wrong headed and sacrificial to innocent victims in America, since at least the late 1970's in my experience and observation. To every action there is an equal and opposing reaction.  When I became a police officer and went on the streets in March of 1973, there were no such things as regularly occurring police chases. Police chases were things of legend among the veteran officers. Only a fool or a seriously desperate criminal would even think of doing it when i first became a police officer. Hence when a police chase did occur, those involved knew immediately and instinctively, that the person fleeing was either a lunatic or a desperate fugitive with nothing to lose. There was a reason behind that thinking trust me.

In those days, back in the so called dark ages of law enforcement, the criminals knew all to well the consequences of running from the police, as did the public at large and consequently, only the seriously depraved would even consider running from the police, for the consequences were far too dire to consider as a sport.

In those days, those who ran from the police were roadblocked and shot, the moment the individual fleeing, did anything that threatened either the pursuing officer or the public at large. Those who ran and didn't attempt to force vehicles off the road or run roadblocks were given significant "attitude adjustments" once they were stopped.  That was the way it was and everyone involved was aware of the rules of engagement, especially the criminals.  Then in the late 1970's something changed. The controlling influences of media began to surface in America.  On the heals of the Watergate successes, there were others victories to be seized by media and changing the landscape of law enforcement in America was at the top of their list of priorities in my observation.

When I first became a police officer, it took almost three years for me to become involved in a high speed pursuit and for the aforementioned reasons.  By the time I retired twelve years ago? The numbers of pursuits in Atlanta had reached an average of two a day in each sector in each zone on each watch in the city. Six zones, two sectors and three watches each and that equals a dozen chases a day on each watch in Atlanta alone. Sometimes more. Therefore anyone observing this dramatic change over time would rightfully be concerned as to the causative factors behind such a quantum shift in thinking.  The answer to the change in policy, thinking and public reaction was and is not as complicated as some might think or believe.

There was one driving factor behind the change in Atlanta and I am sure that similar changes across the country, led to the same results and similar effects nationally. What was the major change? The change was the policy changes eliminating the use of deadly force to end police chases. Police agencies around the country decided that they were no longer going to allow their officers to shoot those who were fleeing. The consensus of opinion being, that there was no way to know what the person was fleeing for, therefore, risking the taking their lives over some potentially trivial traffic violation wasn't worth it.  It was unanimously believed that it was better to chase them until they stopped and risk the lives of countless innocent people in the process, than it was to shoot them to end the chase immediately.

And so it goes. There in lies the truth and reality behind the quantum shift in police chases nationally over the past forty years. To add insult to injury, the media having succeeded in increasing the danger to the public at large a hundred fold, decided that these chases and pursuits were in fact great entertainment.  Hence the advent and popularity of televisions shows like COPS and America's Scariest Police Chases. Any intelligent person might rightfully ask, what were you people thinking? Where the hell did you think this would go once you literally opened the flood gates and then all but sold tickets to the event? 

Police chases in America got out of hand and people began to exponentially die for some very simple and very understandable reasons.  We as Americans chose to limit the powers of the police and we as Americans decided to hand our safety over to the media for entertainment purposes.  It was alright as long as someone else's son or daughter or wife or husband was being maimed or killed at the hands of those inspired to flee by the instant celebrity of it created by media. Who can ever forget the low speed chase involving O.J. Simpson?  Or the countless others broadcast live by all of the major networks coming out of Los Angeles and other cities each day. 

So who is to blame for the runaway train wreck of police chases in America today?  Well of course, its the police! We all knew that! Right!  The sad reality is, we have come to a point now where there are no easy or simple solutions. The police have so sufficiently been neutered and demonized by the media, that their influence over crime and criminals is negligible at best.  Remember, for ever action, there is and equal and opposite reaction. Such is the case concerning police pursuits and such will be the case concerning the furtherance of restrictive police pursuit polices. All that is accomplished by restricting the police from doing their jobs, is the further emboldening of those who are set on victimizing the rest of society at large.

Therefore, look to see more crime and more violent crime as a result of these further restrictive polices. Why?  Because once the criminals at large know and realize that the police cannot chase them at all any more? The immediate result is to take advantage of that newly acquired ability and exploit it to the fullest extent.

The pursuit policy in may jurisdictions around the country is now limited to those who are known to be fleeing a forcible felony and are armed and the police feel they can articulate these factors sufficiently to justify pursuit.  Really?  Do you think any reasonable police officer is going to jeopardize his life, his family and his career over some street thug who knows how to play the system.  I say no and I say as a consequence of the actions of media in America and media locally, the police will be and are being further restricted to the point that criminality will become a sport for the criminals, much as running from the police did a generation ago.  And you know what? The media will be right on top of it providing producing reality television programming to satiate the evil beast that the media has created and furthered in America.

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