California passed a new law that took effect in 1988: Officers are no longer required to follow their own agency's pursuit policy. The law requires that they simply have a policy that meets four minimum standards.
California legislators passed and Gov. George Deukmejian signed this pursuit law that grants blanket immunity to public entities when innocent bystanders are killed and maimed by the fleeing driver's car even when officers do not follow their agency's pursuit policy.
This law is still on the books today. Consequently, law-abidding citizens of this crime lose their right to know if the policy was followed.
Vehicle Code Section 17004.7 goes on and on ... (see copy on DMV web site underneath NOTE: The preceding section...) ... but no where in this code does it say officers must follow their pursuit policy. Read carefully, there's even an escape clause regarding the requirement for officers to read their pursuit policy. Veh. Code 17004.7 (b) (2) reads as follows: "The failure of an individual officer to sign a certification shall not be used to impose liability on an individual officer or a public entity."
It's not about blaming officers for the actions of fleeing drivers;
it's about requiring officers to follow their pursuit policy. It's time for California law enforcement to take the lead and say,
"We must follow our pursuit policy."
Families of innocent bystanders killed or injured as a result of police pursuits continue to introduce legislation to safeguard our loved ones against dangerous, and often times, unnecessary police pursuits. California's legislators and governors rely heavily on endorsements from law enforcement associations to get elected to office. This political pressure had led legislators to maintain the status quo. Chief Steven H. Jones, a Florida sheriff, believes there is a smarter and safer way to catch drivers who flee from the police. Chief Jones' comments.
Tragedies of Police Pursuit
All this effort by these families has gone unnoticed ...
School Zones Four innocent people killed in Stockton, a mother and three high school girls. A mother had just picked up three high school girls—her two daughters and a friend. They never made it home. Read more, right here.
Two teenage girls walking home from their San Diego school were killed
as a car fleeing from police rides the sidewalk.
High School Parking Lot A pedestrian was killed in Orange County, and
Residential Areas leaving too many innocent people dead and permanently injured.
A newlywed must bury her husband, a Fresno County Sheriff Deputy. An innocent bystander, this deputy was not involved in the pursuit. Reason? stolen truck.Read more, right here.
A 4-year-old girl was killed instantly as she held her mother's hand while waiting for a bus? And, in another pursuit in Ventura County an 18-year-old woman is killed as a CHP officer hits the car in which she is a passenger? She and her date were on their way home from a Senior Ball. Reason? Traffic violation.Read more, right here.
A community volunteer in Chico is killed and not one of the teens in the fleeing car was taken into physical custody on the night of that pursuit. Officers finally arrested the driver 23 days later. She received one year in juvenile hall and three years probation. Reason? Teen took mom's RAV 4. Read more, right here.
As a result of these deadly chases and others, California leads the nation in the number of innocent people killed in police pursuits. In many cases, the suspects being chased could have been caught in a different way ... a much safer way. Read more, right here.
And here is one reason why this carnage continues...
Kristie's Law passed over for a do nothing measure (SB 719), pursuitwatch.org. (The site is temporarily down.) April 26, 2005 California Senators vote down Kristie's Law. Read the news story.
Kristie's Law comes up short before Senate Judiciary Committee (SB 1403) May 5, 2004
Similar to SB 219, Kristie's Law in 2004 granted immunity to public entities that employ officers when officers follow their own pursuit policy. The second part of the bill was a statewide policy allowing police to pursue violent felons. The third part was an educational program that included pursuit education in Driver Education classes, the DMV manual and questions about pursuit on the DMV driver's license test.
Safety Quest, right here. April 13 , 2004 Assembly kills police pursuit bill (SB 219) September 11, 2003
"Today, our local legislators failed," said Mark Priano. "They failed to heed the pleas of the judicial branch of our state that saw the need of innocent people to have some protection. They failed to heed the pleas of all the innocent victims and their survivors who said, 'enough is enough.' Once again, our legislators heard only one voice: that of the law-enforcement lobbyists and special interest groups."
Senator Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, is the author of Senate Bill 219. She said the bill was designed to create an incentive for police to follow written guidelines and would have granted immunity only if pursuit policies were followed. The bill also safeguards cities and counties by prohibiting those who flee (and their families) from filing lawsuits. Only innocent victims would be able to file lawsuits and only if the police did not follow their own agency's pursuit policy. Current California law states that law enforcement agencies need a policy, but officers do not need to follow it in order for cities and counties to receive blanket immunity. As with current state law, SB 219 does not allow officers to personally be sued.
Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, voted "No" on Senate Bill 219 because "sometimes fleeing suspects not stopped by police go on to commit crimes that injure or kill people." While our state legislators, as evidenced by Mr. Keene's comments, receive this information from law enforcement lobbyists, a Department of Justice study concludes that only 10 percent of all pursuits involve violent felons who put the public in imminent danger. Consequently, 90 percent of all pursuits involve people who have committed minor traffic violations and non-violent crimes and, in many cases, can be caught later in a safer way ... safer for peace officers and innocent bystanders.Law enforcement lobbyists repeatedly say, "We need to pursue because the fleeing person will go on to commit horrific crimes."
Our legislators need to ask law enforcement lobbyists for evidence as to why innocent victims of pursuit are not as important as "someone else."
Please write your letter now Suggestions for writing a letter are right here. Police pursuits create a very dangerous situation for officers and innocent bystanders. The statistics that go with these pursuits vary greatly. Federal government figures report about 365 people die—fleeing drivers, uninvolved drivers and pedestrians and officers—in pursuits and pursuit-related crashes each year. Research, tracking by advocacy groups and even representatives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that this figure is higher.
California led the nation in 2001 with 51 fatalities and almost half—24—were innocent bystanders, according to the California Highway Patrol and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Not added into this equation is the number of innocent people who were permanently disabled or critically injured. The officers and innocent victims who have died in high-speed pursuits all teach a tragic lesson that was confirmed in a study by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The only person involved in the chase who does not worry about the officer's safety or anyone else's is the fleeing suspect. In fact, in a NIJ study that surveyed 150 jailed suspects who were involved in pursuits, "53 percent were willing to flee at all costs from the police and 64 percent believed they would not be caught."