Giving up the pursuit of a fleeing suspect no doubt is frustrating for any law enforcement officer. But when a high-speed chase poses a greater threat to public safety than the suspect does, it’s time to ease off.
York Police Chief Andy Robinson and three officers with the department who, on April 4, pursued a fleeing suspect at speeds that at some points approached 140 mph put the public in serious jeopardy with their actions. And, appropriately, they were punished for it.
Robinson, who could have ordered his officers to stop, was suspended for three days without pay last month. City Manager Charlie Helms cited “poor judgment” for failing to terminate the chase and violating the city’s pursuit policy as reasons for the suspension.
Lt. Dale Edwards also was disciplined with a one-day suspension. Department officials said Edwards continued to pursue the suspect “at extremely dangerous speeds” although the suspect appeared “to do anything to prevent caputre.”
Two of the department’s newest police officers received formal reprimands for violating pursuit policy. Officers Matthew Piper and Trinity Redmond were required to review the department’s chase policy. Both were written up for failing to use emergency equipment such as sirens or blue lights during the pursuit.
Helms said he would review all police pursuit evaluation records prepared by the department. He also noted that offciers would be re-trained on pursuit procedures.
This incident is a good example of why police departments need hard-and-fast rules regarding high-speed chases. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on what might have gone wrong during this pursuit.
The fact that officers reached speeds of 137 mph while chasing an alleged car thief is frightening. One of the officers – who had not been certified by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy – entered the opposite lane of travel going nearly 100 mph.
The report on the incident noted that “a collision at this speed head on with another vehicle would have most likely been fatal.”
That raises the question that must be asked any time police engage in a chase such as this one: Is it worth risking a life?
Clearly, the answer in this case was no.