Monday, March 07, 2005


From The Mercury News (you need to sign up for free to view, I think):

On any given day in California, a television station helicopter hovers over a speeding car that pinballs through traffic on the freeway below with police cars in hot pursuit. More and more often, however, this staple of television news and police procedure has brought death and serious injuries. According to the California Highway Patrol, the number of chases has grown by the hundreds each of the last three years for which statistics are available: 5,895 in 2001; 6,337 in 2002; 7,171 in 2003.

Fifty-one people died in 2003 as a result, or nearly one each week. Of the dead, 18 were not involved in the pursuit, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last month, University of California, Berkeley, graduate student Jie Wang joined the list of the seriously injured after a motorist fleeing an Albany, Calif., police officer ran a red light and crashed into Wang's car. The 24-year-old Wang remains in a coma.

California's numbers consistently far exceed any other state. Compared to the 51 California deaths in 2003, Texas had 33 including nine innocents; North Carolina had 23 deaths, eight of them uninvolved motorists; Florida had 21 deaths, just one of an innocent motorist.

While some cities including Los Angeles have limited chases, Florida and Mississippi last year enacted laws boosting penalties for fleeing drivers, similar to what California law enforcement is now proposing this year as the California Legislature is set to start again attempts to change the way law enforcement pursue potential criminals. Law enforcement groups want to increase penalties for fleeing drivers, while a bipartisan group of legislators is pushing a proposal that would include penalties for police who recklessly pursue drivers.

You have almost admire the sheer idiocy of people that, in order to stop destruction from police chasing criminals, want to hamstring the police. "Officer, we'd like you to stop doing your job because sometimes accidents happen". Now, don't you suppose that maybe bad guys read the news? And don't you suppose they will hear about new laws meant to stop officers from chasing? And don't you suppose that they might then decide that running from the cops is the way to go? Don't you suppose that everyone from people with felony warrants to people who speed are going to see running from the cops as no big deal?

I found this line particularly telling as to the intelligence of the anti-police legislators out there:

"Probably the worst way to catch someone is by chasing them," [state Sen. Sam] Aanestad said.
I see. I would tend to think that not chasing someone is the worst way to catch them, but then I'm no California State Senator. (By the way, I implicitly don't trust anyone with a double letter at the beginning of their last name. Call me old-fashioned, it's just how I was raised)

Aanestad is naming his bill after Kristie Priano, a 15-year-old Chico honor student who was killed in January 2002 when her family's minivan was struck by an unlicensed 15-year-old who took her mother's car without permission. Candy Priano argues police knew where the fleeing driver lived, so there was no need for the pursuit that killed her daughter. "I blame the people who flee. (But) people who flee do not care about anyone's safety, so the burden of protecting innocent bystanders by necessity falls on the police," Priano said in remarks prepared for a news conference Monday before a Public Safety Committee information hearing Wednesday.

I kind of like that little "but" she had. "I blame the bad guys, but since they don't care, it's the police's fault now." When someone loses a loved one, you don't want to tell them to shut up, but really...

I feel like this is so simple, I shouldn't have to say it again, but here goes: If you make it hard for police to chase bad guys, bad guys will flee more often. And when bad guys get away, they do other bad things! This woman complains that the police should protect innocent bystanders. Well what happenes when they call off the chase of someone and that person gets away and later carjacks someone or murders them? Weren't they an innocent person in need of protection? What happens when we stop chasing a guy with warrants and then when officers go to serve it at his home, he gets in a shoot-out with them as he barracades himself inside? Who knows what these jerks are capable of? Isn't it better to get them off the street as quickly as possible?

Now, if the State Legistature really wanted to do something useful for once, instead of trying to punish cops,
why don't they support this?


Blogger Gritsforbreakfast said...

I guess those 18 innocents in CA were acceptable collateral damage, under your theory? If 1/3 of deaths are of innocents, there's a problem that needs fixing whether police admit it or not.

If you haven't seen them, I'd encourage you to check out these two websites:

The latter is a very sad woman whose husband died in a high speed chase, the former is a policy-oriented site. I think there's a lot more to this than your blog post would have it.Best,

5:21 PM  

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