Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Police Pursuits: What Would You Do?


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.

There are 8 comments.

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  1. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Shoot him and be done with it.

    • #1
    • September 8, 2019, at 3:51 PM PDT
  2. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    I agree, shoot.

    • #2
    • September 8, 2019, at 4:11 PM PDT
  3. Rodin Member

    Instugator (View Comment):
    Shoot him and be done with it.

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):
    I agree, shoot.

    Me, three. Although the Dems don’t want to hear this, a car is a deadly weapon. If background checks have a logic, then they should be applied to driver’s licenses as well.

    • #3
    • September 8, 2019, at 4:36 PM PDT
  4. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    In the situation you describe, I suggest shooting the guy. I am not entirely convinced that is always the right course of action.

    I was just pondering the question, as I had read the post on Facebook before I came here. As I came upstairs I wondered why police don’t have things in their cars to help stop these sorts of things?

    I know it sounds silly, but why not some kind of cable that can be fired in to the other car and perhaps hook part of the frame? Or something that will blow out the tires? Again, I know it sounds a bit Mad Max, but something like that would surely work some of the time…? I’m sure you guys have already thought of that stuff…

    • #4
    • September 8, 2019, at 6:19 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Old Bathos Moderator

    I think it must be extremely hard to make the call based on risk-benefit: If the target is not reckless (e.g., OJ Simpson’s “escape”) then pursuit that just keeps contact until a controlled intervention can be effected is the prudent choice but if the vehicle is clearly endangering others a more immediate, more risky and likely lethal action is the choice. How all that is evaluated in real-time with high adrenaline and imperfect information is a hell of a responsibility that I am not qualified to second guess.

    I have some (limited) sympathy for the Baltimore supervisor who let a dangerous criminal evade capture on the theory that one more violent criminal left on the streets in Charm City is less a risk of harm than an incident that could become a violent wide-impact flashpoint. Not the right call but understandable in the political context that prevails.

    • #5
    • September 8, 2019, at 6:53 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    Cars kill more people than guns.

    • #6
    • September 8, 2019, at 7:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Quietpi Member

    Spin (View Comment):
    As I came upstairs I wondered why police don’t have things in their cars to help stop these sorts of things?

    Just about every imaginable gadget for terminating a chase like this has been tried, all failed.

    I think the last one I was aware of was a miniature… sort of like a tiny rocket car I guess, that would launch from the police car, zip under the pursued vehicle, and detonate under the engine compartment. Fail.

    I honestly don’t know what I would do today in California. It seems like the only “safe” alternative remaining for any peace officer, when faced with the prospect of having to apply deadly force, is to run the other way. The state is, literally and by the numbers, being turned over to the criminals. And I’m not referring to our glorious leaders in Sacramento.

    Well, maybe I am.

    • #7
    • September 9, 2019, at 6:05 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Stad Thatcher

    A car is a weapon every bit as dangerous, if not more, as a firearm. I believe use of deadly force is authorized for the protection of others.

    • #8
    • September 9, 2019, at 8:07 AM PDT
    • Like

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