We have probably all seen the footage of O.J. Simpson’s infamous police chase through L.A. It seemed exciting to watch America’s star football player on the run. That’s because we weren’t near that very dangerous high-speed chase. We were safely in our homes watching it on TV. What we didn’t see with O.J. is that one person dies nearly every day in police chases. We need to take the lead as a nation to protect ourselves from high-speed chases as their carnage spreads.
High-speed chases continue to rise even though our police forces know they’re dangerous. There were nearly 1600 deaths by high-speed chases from 2014-2017 with a quarter of them innocent victims. This is enough evidence that these pursuits are dangerous. Of course, DUI’s account for nearly a quarter of those being chased which only means greater danger. If they can’t drive 30 mph without swerving what happens at 100mph? A national policy that requires police forces to eliminate high-speed chases while integrating new forms of technology could create safety for the innocent bystanders and the chased drivers.
On January 3rd, 2020 Atlanta’s Police Chief Erika Shields took a monumental step to protect police, drivers, and pedestrians when she announced a stop on all high-speed chases. She acknowledged the dangers involved in high-speed chases were greater than the positive results of an arrest. An arrest is possibly the only decent factor within a police chase. One element that was important in her decision is a lack of training for police involved in high-speed chases. That’s a key to producing a national law. Any law to curb high-speed chases should include funding for all police to be trained in chase decisions. Police should use critical thinking questions. What is the population density of the area they will be in pursuit? How many innocent bystanders will be in the possible area? What are the results of the chase going to be? An arrest of a drunk driver? a shooter? a kidnapper? Police should decipher the immediate and long-term consequences of a police chase. They need governments to support training to make these decisions. Since the police force and the municipality are responsible for all damages to all property destroyed during the chase wouldn’t it be easier to just train cops?
High-speed chases cost more than sorrow. Police forces are responsible for the innocent bystanders harmed and possibly the hospitalization fees for the driver. Lawsuits are consistently won against municipalities for endangerment. Just two lawsuits in Chicago cost the taxpayers $15 million dollars. There can be upwards of 4 or more police chases per day in a big city.
There are positive alternatives beyond chases that money could be spent. The Grappler Police Bumper was designed to mimic the old Batmobile technology. A net pops out of a police car bumper onto a tire of a suspect making them immobile. National legislation could provide funding to all police forces to obtain this technology on part of their fleet. These devices are used in 21 states with a rising number of successful non-chase captures.
We’ve mentioned the innocent bystanders, millions in damages and new technology but what about the police officers? Between 1979 and 2013 (latest data) 139 police officers died in high-speed chases. Besides the average dangers of a cop’s daily life from guns to drug dealers and gang members, we now need to add high-speed chases as an occupational hazard. How much pressure can you put on people to do their jobs when it only gets more dangerous?
These facts and stats are stagnant compared to witnessing high-speed chases. We could bring these alive by demanding protection to eliminate high-speed chases while supplementing police with life-saving technology and training. A national law starts with you. Call your local legislators and tell them the cost of American lives is always too high.