Kristie's Law exclusive
Boelens laments: "This is a difficult letter to
write." And then she goes on and on with sarcasms
and a personal attack against another letter writer whose
only "crime" is that he did not agree with Boelens.
Research doesn't agree with Boelens either. She made
me feel as if Kristie was just "collateral
damage." Her self-serving comments
"beautiful names of innocent victims" are so
offensive because they are followed with such meanness and
insensitivity. A regular letter writer, Boelens must
have read my previous letters to the editor and knows that
my family and Kristie's Law are not anti-law
enforcement. In fact, many officers who once resisted
restrictive pursuit policies now welcome them because they
actually save lives!
Advocates for safer police pursuits
continually encounter myths about police pursuits that are
debunked in numerous studies, including the U.S. Department of
Justice and the Illinois
Law Enforcement Executive Forum. As
more and more law enforcement agencies around the country change
to restrictive pursuit policies, like the one in Kristie's Law,
they are seeing fewer deaths and injuries to innocent victims,
officers and yes, even the fleeing suspects. One
chief reports that crime, such as
stolen cars, has decreased because officers are doing their job
in a more preventative way. Since Chief William Bratton
restricted the LAPD pursuit policy, his department has also seen
the same positive results mentioned above without an increase in
With the public, one myth is, "It won't
happen to me." About a month or so before Kristie was
killed, I was home alone flipping the remote. I came
across a show on police pursuits and saw horrific crashes. Arrogantly, I flipped off the TV and said out loud, "People
could get killed doing that!" Even though I saw the
carnage before my very eyes, I still did not conclude that
"People do get killed!" It took my own
daughter's death for me to realize that fact.
With officers, who find change difficult,
the prevailing myth is that pursuit is the only way to catch a
fleeing suspect. Fortunately, more and more law
enforcement trainers are teaching officers how to catch these
suspects without putting anyone at risk.
It is not that unusual for me to receive an email where
an officer shares a story with me of how a fleeing suspect was
caught later in a different way.
Jo Boelens, a regular Chico
Enterprise-Record letter writer, has bought into every
possible myth about police pursuits. In previous letters to the
editor, I have addressed the myths she used in her personal
attack against another letter writer, John Lozano, so I won't
repeat them here. But I will say this: Boelens
writes that police risk their lives, even for minor
crimes. I understand this and believe that when someone
decides to become an officer, they are aware that
life-threatening risks come with the job. To me, Boelens' line of thinking is an insult to the officers who have
spent countless hours educating me about pursuits. They
know, understand, and accept the risks of their chosen
profession and that's why they're doing their jobs safer and
My family did not choose to help police rein
in a rebellious teen at the expense of Kristie's life. How much safer is Chico now that this girl was caught?
Specifically, who is safer? How many Chicoans would say,
"Okay, I'll sacrifice my precious, law-abiding daughter to
teach this other girl a lesson."
People are often asked, "Should officers
pursue criminals at all costs?" Well, without being educated on this topic of police pursuit, most will probably respond with a quick "Yes." But, ask people this question: "Should
officers pursue criminals, knowing that your loved ones might be
killed, maimed or injured?" When the questions is posed to them this way, one thing for sure is that they won't answer quickly and it most likely won't be a "Yes."
Another myth: It's 100 percent the fleeing suspect's
fault. If this were true, officers would not engage in something
of which they have no control. Clovis officers were honored for
the outcome of a Fresno pursuit. How can this be if officers
have nothing to do with the outcome? In other states if officers
don't follow their policy, they're fired or receive
disciplinary action. California is the only state where
officers have blanket immunity even if they do not follow their
And, some officers decide not to chase. A trainer writes: "We
had a pursuit to catch a speeder, only to be terminated by the
officer who ... obtained a license plate and caught the suspect
later, perhaps saving a life."
In sharp contrast, two California officers were killed in April
and June. The suspects -- one a speeder and the other's crime
is unknown -- got away.
With better laws and succinct guidelines on pursuits, officers
say it makes their job easier, and they feel better equipped to
conduct safer pursuits and avoid unnecessary ones.
P.S. On that Tuesday night as we drove to Kristie's basketball game, I never thought my beautiful daughter would be killed in a dark, residential neighborhood in Chico, a city known for being a great place to raise a family. But it did happen because a teenage girl decided to flee and the officers decided to disregard their own pursuit policy. It takes two to have a car chase.
Kristie's Law and Immunity