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Commentary

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said law enforcement officers do not have to call off pursuits when they reasonably expect that other people could be hurt.

Ret. Police Chief Donald Van Blaricom, Bellevue, Washington, writes:
The question Justice Scalia did not answer, of course, is how many innocent bystanders are killed or maimed by such efforts to "terminate a dangerous high-speed car chase that (admittedly) threatens the lives of innocent bystanders" and just how are the police going to do that, if the fleeing driver just keeps running faster and faster to get away at all costs? Our problem is that we expect some logic to this thinking but the decision-makers JUST DON'T GET IT!


Doc Holliday, a retired paramedic, who lives in Montana, writes:
This, essentially, gives a blank check to any cop who wants to chase anyone, for any reason, and allows
the use of "deadly force" [ramming] instead of less lethal alternatives, like "stop sticks". This case involves a lawsuit by the fleeing driver, but has direct implications as to what justifies a pursuit by the cops. It is questionable as to what effect it has on police liability for injury to parties injured during the chase, but not involved in the chase. I can see it being argued that, if the cops are justified in chasing, they are justified in claiming immunity from liability to the pursued driver and anyone else injured in the pursuit, because it is
for the "greater good" and the cops were, actually, "protecting" those who were hurt...

Apparently, Justice Scalia feels that the constitution provides protection to the citizenry from being "frighten[ed]" by "Hollywood-style" pursuits. "Fright" is an exceptionally low and ill-defined standard by which to govern the action of the police. I don't understand why law enforcement and the courts can't realize that
there would be no "Hollywood-style" pursuits and no injuries, if the cops didn't chase people.

I tend more to agree with the position ascribed to Justice Stevens -- in this particular case and in all cases, the need to pursue terminates with the identification of the automobile being pursued.


In dissent, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said he worried the court had gone too far and feared its decision could encourage the kind of reckless, high-speed chases that will endanger the public.

Candy Priano writes:

"This 2007 case and the court's opinion on the use of excessive deadly force illustrates how our justice system, once again, ignores the real problem: the killing and maiming of innocent bystanders as a result of pursuit crashes. I thank Justice Stevens for remembering that innocent people really do get killed in these chases."



Stop the insanity on high-speed chases
by Lansing, Illinois, Police Chief Dan McDevitt
 

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