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Candy Priano: California's current pursuit law grants blanket immunity to all California law enforcement departments that have a pursuit policy meeting four minimum standards of the state law.It does not matter whether the policy is good or bad, whether officers follow it or do not follow it. Law enforcement agencies just have to have a policy in order to receive immunity from any liability—they receive this immunity even if the policy is not followed.
That's the law in California.

CHP must change policy

Ventura County Star Editorial

January 31, 2003If it's really an established policy of the California Highway Patrol to engage in high-speed chases on city streets—without the use of either warning lights or a siren on the CHP carthat policy should be revoked immediately.  

Yet, the CHP commissioner vigorously defends such an indefensible policy.

The specific case involved a CHP patrol car slamming into the passenger side of a car carrying a young couple in Oxnard, killing the young woman who was the passenger and injuring the young man who was driving. The CHP patrol car was chasing another car at the moment of impact and among the disputed facts is the speed of the patrol car.

The Ventura County District Attorney's Office, which investigated the case for possible criminal prosecution, estimated the speed of the patrol car at 85 mph. The CHP estimated the speed at 70 mph. By either definition, this is a high-speed chase in a 45 mph speed zone.

What is no longer in dispute is the fact that the patrol car wasn't flashing its warning lights or sounding its siren at the time of the fatal accident on March 23.  When witnesses first made that allegation, CHP officials were noncommittal.

The District Attorney's office established that the patrol car was, in fact, running without its warning lights or its siren.  Despite that finding, the District Attorney's Office concluded that there wasn't evidence to support any criminal prosecution of the officers in the patrol car — since what they did was in keeping with CHP policy.

Not surprisingly, the District Attorney's Office recommended that the CHP re-examine its policy of permitting high-speed chases without either warning lights or sirens.  What was a surprise was CHP Commissioner Dwight Helmick's defense of such a dangerous policy.

The lawsuit will play itself out in a trial, or will be quietly settled out of court so the CHP won't have to try to justify this fatal policy in court.  However that is resolved, the CHP really must change the policy.

Copyrighted article reprinted with permission by the Ventura County Star.



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