Tuesday, March 08, 2005

In pursuit of the best policy...

Gritsforbreakfast had a comment on the pursuit story below:

I guess those 18 innocents in CA were acceptable collateral damage, under your theory?

When it comes to topics where innocent people die, it's always hard to call real people with real families "acceptable collateral damage". No one wants to dehumanize a person like that, especially when they have families grieving for them. But life is hard and it doesn't have easy answers. We have to accept a world where bad things happen to good people. The death of an innocent person is not good enough to justify sweeping changes, especially because the changes are heavy of emotion and light on substance.

PursuitWatch.org, an anti-pursuit site, has some statistics on it. Two stats that I found interesting were that only 1% of pursuits end in fatality and that their figure for bystander deaths in pursuits was 236 a year.

236 is not that many people, I'm sorry to say. It just isn't. When you figure that there are 300,000,000 people in the U.S. currently, that comes out to .00000007% of the population. I don't want to minimize loss of life, but statistically speaking, it's really very minor. For comparison, I found some other death stats. These ones I got from http://danger.mongabay.com/injury_death.htm:

Drowning and submersion while in or falling into swimming-pool 567
Water transport accidents 630
Inhalation and ingestion of food causing obstruction of respiratory tract 744
Inhalation and ingestion of other objects causing obstruction of respiratory tract 3,187

And from www.defendu.com:

As many as 98,000 Americans die unnecessarily every year from medical mistakes
made by physicians, pharmacists and other health care professionals

Those are just a few obviously, but you get the point. Relatively speaking, pursuits are not butchering innocents at any substantial rate.

Also, the 1% stat for fatalities is a tad misleading because the majority of the time, it's the suspect being killed in the pursuit. If you go with PursuitWatch's numbers, then .33% of pursuits kill an innocent bystander. So we want to obstruct police business and give a thumbs-up to criminals because of .33% of pursuits. That's ludicrous.

Here's what I'm in favor of: increased mandatory training for cops. Maybe cops need to go to EVOC every three years instead of just in the Academy. I'm okay with that. I'm also in favor of doing what Jeb Bush did in Florida, which is make fleeing from the police an automatic felony punishable by 5 years in prison, 15 if it's aggravated, and even worse if there is injury. Tell me this: if fleeing from the police resulted in an automatic minimum 25 year sentence, do you think people would try it just to get out of a speeding ticket? But no, we'd rather remove police immunity and tell the criminals, "Go ahead and run, we won't chase you anymore because .00000007% of Americans die each year. Please, run for any reason."

Do I wish innocent people didn't have to die? Of course. Am I willing to tie the police's hands unnecessarily to assauge the emotions of families? Of course not. Call me a cold, cruel man, but I am just not willing to go there. Somebody has to make the tough calls. Somebody has to be the asshole for the good of society.


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