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Do What It Takes To Get The Bad Guy

Do What It Takes To Get The Bad Guy

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Two people were seriously injured after officers recklessly pursued a drug suspect who fled the wrong way on Interstate 70.

Officers initially tried to pull over the man, whose name was not released, as he proceeded westbound on I-70 near the Post Road exit. Rather than pull over, the man led officers on a winding chase; during part of the pursuit, the man headed against traffic on westbound I-70. The chase came to an end after the suspect careened into at least four different vehicles, he abandoned his vehicle, and officers subdued him as he tried to break into a nearby business. One victim was trapped inside his vehicle for half an hour before first responders could extricate him. Both people were rushed to nearby hospitals, but both are expected to survive.

The man said he was on parole in California; officers said they seized drugs and cash from the wrecked vehicle.

High Speed Police Chases

Since 1979, high speed police chases have killed more than 5,000 people; many of these victims were either innocent bystanders or passengers. Tens of thousands of other people have been seriously injured. Rather curiously, police chases have killed almost as many people as officer-involved shootings, although the latter receives much, much more attention than the former.

Many advocates, including law enforcement, have urged police departments to address this issue. For example, way back in 1990, the United States Department of Justice called high speed chases “the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities.” Yet, for the most part, there are no official limitations in this area.

Officers assert that they must enforce all laws and cannot pick and choose which criminal statutes are enforced at what time. Though they will not admit it on the record, many officers also enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes from “getting the bad guy,” regardless of the crime the suspect allegedly committed. So, for both official and unofficial reasons, high speed police chases are here to stay.

Proving Liability

Officers receive considerable leeway when performing their duties, and they obviously have no obligation to stop at stop signs or obey speed limits when they are in emergency mode (lights and/or sirens on). However, this leeway is not unlimited.

  • Reckless Disregard: There is a balancing test involved. If officers heedlessly pursue a non-violent suspect and seem not to care or understand that other lives are at risk, reasonable jurors could question their conduct.
  • Policy Violation: A few departments have written policies that forbid high speed chases except in extreme circumstances. Other times, a supervisor or dispatcher issues instructions like “pursue with caution” or “do not pursue.” Policy violations are always evidence of negligence.

As technology advances, police chase liability will probably be easier to establish. Houston police are testing devices that may eliminate the need for such chases, like a James Bond-type miniature GPS tracker that is shot out of a cannon and sticks to a vehicle. As the need decreases, the balancing test mentioned earlier should tilt even more favorably in victims’ favor.

Contact Assertive Attorneys

Reckless police chases injured and kill people almost every day. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Indianapolis, contact Holland & Holland. We do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury matters.

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