Candy Priano's response to an editorial
that ran in the Chico Enterprise-Record
(A shorter version of this letter ran in the Chico E-R)
It is with a mother's passion that I must respond to your Feb. 2, 2003, editorial, "Chico police quick to provide answers." I believe the comparison of the police pursuit that resulted in the death of my innocent daughter, Kristie Priano, to the recent police shooting of a known criminal is misleading.
First, peace officers are required by law to provide complete information when they use their gun. Our current state law does not require this same standard when it comes to police pursuits.
Secondly, Kristie was not breaking the law when she was killed. She was a passenger in the family van on her way to play in her high school basketball game.
Thirdly, have the Chico Police given the Enterprise-Record a complete report on this pursuit, one that has all the supplements and explains the "unidentifiable transmissions" at strategic points in the pursuit? Have you received a diagram of where all four patrol cars were positioned? The Chico policy states that no more than two patrol cars should be involved in a pursuit, unless the command officer supervising the pursuit authorizes more cars. In the report we have, there is no mention of the authorization of additional cars, yet two eye witnesses report that four patrol cars were involved in the pursuit.
Your editorial does make it clear why we need Kristie's Law. And so did the judges of California's Fourth District Court of Appeals, who filed their ruling Nov. 26, 2002, on a seven-year-old case involving a pursuit through a high school parking lot just as classes had ended. This family, whose innocent loved one died as result of that chase, appealed the lower court's decision to drop the police officers from their suit. Judge Rylaarsdam begins:
We reluctantly conclude the trial court properly found Vehicle Code Section 17004.7 (offering immunity to police) applies in this case. ... One reason for extending immunity to a public entity that adopts a written policy on vehicle pursuits is to advance the goal of public safety. But the law in its current state simply grants a "get out of liability free card" to public entities that go through the formality of adopting such a policy. There is no requirement the public entity implement the policy .... Unfortunately, the adoption of a policy which may never be implemented is cold comfort to innocent bystanders .... We do not know if the policy was followed in this instance, and that is precisely the point: We will never know because defendant did not have to prove the police officers participating in this pursuit followed the policy. ... We urge the legislature to revisit this statute and seriously reconsider the balance between public entity immunity and public safety. The balance appears to have shifted too far toward immunity and left public safety, as well as compensation for the innocent victims, twisting in the wind.
The praise given to the Chico Police Department is perhaps misguided and premature. Yes, they were forthcoming when they did the right thing and followed their policy regarding the recent shooting. I, and the people who have signed the Kristie's Law petition on her web site kristieslaw.org, believe the police should be as forthcoming when they don't follow their policy and perhaps follow the example of LAPD Chief William Bratton in banning all pursuits over minor offenses and misdemeanors. Interim Police Chief Mike Maloney tells the public that he cannot talk about this pursuit because of pending litigation. What litigation? The Chico Police Department was dropped from our suit on Dec. 20, 2002, and they know that an appellate court will rule in their favor, as in the case mentioned above.
Last year a news story said the Chico Police offered my family any help we needed. No such offer was made, but the "no comment policy" must have made it impossible for the Chico police officers who wanted to express their condolences to do so. To date, we have not received any written expression of condolence from either the City of Chico or the police department. I would have so appreciated seeing uniformed police officers at Kristie's funeral. What a difference it would have made to us if they had done just one small act to let us know that our precious Kristie—who cared for the animals at the Nature Center, participated in races and walks to raise money for cancer and AIDS, and served at various fund-raisers that benefited the Chico community—was in their thoughts and prayers.
Yes, Kristie's Law will protect the innocent victims of police pursuits, but it will also provide a safer environment for the officers who may be put in life-threatening situations during pursuits. And, when an innocent bystander is killed or injured, I believe it becomes a burden that officers would rather not carry. With California Senator Sam Aanestad's support, we are fighting to pass the "safest" state police pursuit law in the United States. We also favor stricter penalties for those who flee.
- Candy Priano
- Kristie's Mom