How Many Deaths Before It’s Not Okay?

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Candy Priano, Executive Director
Voices Insisting on PursuitSAFETY

Original article published in The Conservative Voice might be found here.

“Whenever some innocent driver or pedestrian is killed as a result of a high-speed chase,” writes Thomas Sowell in one of  his September columns, “editorials are sure to appear, saying this would not have happened if the police had just let the high-speed driver go on his way without pursuing.”

“Some” innocent driver or pedestrian?  I regularly read Thomas Sowell’s column, and I don’t recall him describing other crime victims in this way?  He wants us to believe he cares about the innocent, but he doesn’t show it. Some people refer to the blameless children, grandchildren, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters killed and maimed in police chases as “that family,” “that woman,” “that child.” They all have names.

Words such as “some” and “that” make it easier for people to write and talk about these crime victims as acceptable collateral damage, even though their deaths are not the result of a military operation.

Sowell reports an estimated 500 people died as a result of crashes from high-speed chases last year; nearly half were innocent. This statement alone begs the question: How many deaths would it take for it not to be okay? If the blameless person is your loved one, the answer is one.

His statistics don’t report that 85 percent of those deaths were for less than a felonious reason and to capture the young, dumb and stupid (perpetrators the police had already identified). It just isn’t common sense to insist on the deaths of uninvolved citizens to recover a stolen car the insurance company will replace, or to capture a teenager who will eventually go home for the night. It is a misconception that pursuits are begun to capture a dangerous criminal.

The second half of Sowell’s sentence is intriguing and wraps in a couple of issues.  He writes, ” … editorials are sure to appear, saying this would not have happened if the police had just let the high-speed driver go on his way without pursuing.”

Voices Insisting on PursuitSAFETY, founded just this year, is a national organization devoted to families of innocent bystanders killed and maimed in police pursuits. At least one person a day dies as the result of a pursuit, a number that is neither necessary nor practical. Yes, editorials addressing pursuit safety will appear. Most criminals are caught by good detective work, not by a chance encounter and a chase.

Sowell wants you to believe we are “critics” of law enforcement. Yet, the quote he provides in his column is from the adult passenger in the fleeing car. Once again, the real issue: the killing and maiming of the innocent in order to promote police chases at any cost.

Advocates for pursuit safety are not in favor of letting reckless drivers— who become more reckless once the chase begins — to get away.

 “Abandoning the pursuit does not mean the officer stops apprehension efforts; rather, the officer initiates other resources to bring about the apprehension,” wrote Lt. John Specht, Hillsboro, Oregon, Police Department, in The Police Chief, The Professional Voice of Law Enforcement.

Since Sowell believes pursuing prevents untold future crimes, why not arrest us all and prevent all future crime? The late Jim Phillips of first asked this question in 2004. He also stated, “Habitual lawbreakers and dangerous career criminals interact with the police on a regular basis. They are not masterminds and they will be caught.”

And yes, once caught, let’s hope our criminal justice system does its job and keeps them in jail. Unlikely, but we can always hope.