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My fellow Ricochetti, I invite you to imagine yourself as a police officer on patrol. While driving in your squad car you hear a radio broadcast of a robbery that has just occurred, one in which the suspect shot the victim. You are supplied with a description of the suspect and his getaway car, and moments later you spot him driving. You radio for backup and continue to follow at a distance, and when your backup arrives you try to pull the suspect over. Rather than stop, he accelerates away and a pursuit begins.
Conditions for the chase are relatively safe at the outset, with light traffic and no outrageously erratic driving by the suspect. But as the suspect’s desperation increases, so too does his recklessness, and before long he sideswipes a car, drives on a sidewalk, and does other things indicating he will try anything to escape. You are informed the car the suspect is driving in stolen, offering you no clue as to the suspect’s identity.
While taking a turn too fast, the suspect spins out and strikes a parked car, coming to rest momentarily right in front of you. You and your backup officers maneuver your cars so as block him in, but he continues his effort to escape by ramming your car and trying to push it out of his way.
What do you do?
Speaking for myself, I shoot the suspect, thereby ending the dangerous chase and averting the peril to the suspect’s future robbery victims.
My two most recent contributions over at PJ Media concern these issues. In the first, I wrote about an incident in Baltimore in which a man tried to kill two police officers (one by running him down, the other by shooting at him), yet was allowed to escape when a supervisor terminated the pursuit. The man was shot and killed two days later after another car chase.
In the second column, I argue that police officers in these situations should observe the guidelines set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Plumhoff v. Rickard (2014), in which a unanimous Court held that officers did not violate the Constitution when they used deadly force to bring a dangerous chase to an end.
At this stage of my police career, I’m largely confined to investigations and court appearances, but I still drive a car with emergency lights and a siren. I’m resolved to the commitment that I won’t watch idly as some fleeing criminal injures or kills someone when I have been placed in a position to prevent it.
But what about you? As always, I look forward to reading the thoughtful opinions of the Ricochet community.