High-speed police pursuits questioned

Cops Police motorcycles witnesses

Police pursuits are again being questioned after an American police officer was sacked last week for shooting a motorcycle rider in 2016 following a high-speed chase.

Officer Brian Trainer shot Terrence Sterling, 31, twice but did not turn on his body camera until after the shooting. 

The recent D.C. police trial board heard a lot of conflicting evidence, but it seems the rider stopped briefly at a red light, then sped off.

Trainer allegedly ignored commands to stop the chase and at the trial he was unable to recite police pursuit policies.

police pursuits
Officer Brian Trainer and victim Terrence Sterling

After a chase at up to 160km/h (100mph) through city streets, the officer pulled over the rider and within moments Sterling was shot twice.

Police allege the rider rammed the police car door. He was later found to have a 0.16 blood alcohol content which is twice the legal limit in that jurisdiction.

While penalties are high for speeding and drink driving, they do not include roadside execution!

Trainer, who did not face any criminal charges, can appeal his sacking.

Police pursuits

A leading police study has found the three most pressing issues for police reform around the world are use of force, policing of violence in families and high-speed pursuits.

A 2009 Australian Institute of Criminology study found deaths in custody at police stations are declining but “deaths in custody” as a result of high-speed pursuits were rising.

While less than 1% of police pursuits results in a fatal crash, 38% of the people killed are innocent bystanders.

It’s much worse in the USA where one person dies every day as a result of a police pursuit. Of those deaths, 1% are police, 55% suspects and 44% bystanders.

Most police procedures acknowledge the judgement of the officer at the scene to begin a pursuit.

However, continuation of the pursuit is then deferred to a senior officer at the station or headquarters.

They have to make a quick judgement based on the lethal risk to the community of the chase versus the lethal risk to the community of letting a serious offender escape.

This must be backed by information, not just mere suspicion.

Queensland police figures show only about 3% of pursuits involved imminent threat to life or a suspect escaping after a homicide.

Police have a duty to not only prevent and control crime, but more importantly, they have a duty to protect the community and that includes from their own reckless behaviour and judgement.

Click her to read about a police and media pursuit that encouraged a motorcycle rider to perform stunts for the cameras.

Police pursuit pursuits
TV chopper captures pursued rider performing stunts

Restrictive practices

Despite criticism from police unions, most pursuit policies around the world, including the USA, are becoming more restrictive.

In many jurisdictions, pursuits are only allowed if there is a serious risk to public safety or in relation to a major crime involving death or injury.

However, there is an issue about making these pursuit policies public. Some say they should be public to show transparency while others believe it would give criminals clues on how to evade police.

Those who support pursuits point out that the number of people evading police is rising as a result of more restrictive pursuit policies, despite higher penalties for evading police.

Making the issue more complex is the degree of the pursuit.

Should there be an upper speed limit for police? Should police be allowed to break other road rules in the pursuit?

There have been incidences of police driving at more than 200km/h in a pursuit and on the road side of a major highway.

Another issue is whether police should be criminally culpable in the instance of a death resulting from a pursuit.

To a degree, technologies such as CTV and number plate recognition cameras, negate the need for pursuits, anyway.

* What do you think about police pursuits? Leave your comments below.

6 Comments

  1. The cars in South Africa are often fitted with anti-hijacking devices and some even have satellite tracking – for in case their car is stolen. In addition, the 3rd party who supply these “devices” can control certain aspects of the car – depending on how it has been set-up. They can track-it, lock the doors and even cut the ignition – all, normally in conjunction with the trailing Police. Quite interesting ! Sometimes, the Police used to covertly monitor where the (stolen) car was going and “see what they find” at the “end of the rainbow”. Quite often many other stolen vehicles.

  2. As far as I’m concerned, if the person running from the police is in an accident, it is on them, not the coppers. It is their decision to disobey a police directive, and the coppers are doing what we expect of them, within reason. It’s just unfortunate that innocents get caught up sometimes, but again, are we going to blame the police for chasing the runners in the first place?

    If laws are not being enforced as they should, it will eventually become the norm to break them routinely. As a very low level example, the use of fog lights in normal conditions, and the increasing use of illegal light bars and spot lights mounted above windscreen height on high beam. Very seldom enforced but becoming very common and often causing danger to others. Having said that, imagine someone running from the police after being signalled to stop by police for something as minor as fog lights being used inappropriately. I can only imagine the first thing to go through a cops mind in that situation is what the hell else are they running for?

    Not pursuing will only validate the breaking of laws for those that don’t give a shit anyway.

    If stiffer penalties for evading police haven’t worked, then maybe they aren’t stiff enough, along with many others that simply aren’t getting the message through.

    1. You can’t legislate against stupidity! Except in the case of the police!
      Police have far more tools available to them than just the accelerator pedal but for many of them that is the first and only tool they think to use.
      Innocent bystanders get killed and injured not only by the running idiot but also by police vehicles and often not even those directly involved in the chase but those rushing to get in on the action. And there are chases that could have been quickly brought to an end but the cops have deliberately prolonged so they can have some fun!
      No one has said don’t catch the idiots just don’t chase them.
      I know of one case where they have almost a complete video account of a guy who robbed a store sped off dumped and torched the car walked home into the arms of the cops waiting for him.

  3. People who evade police are not in their right mind be it drugs alcohol actual insanity or dimwitedness they are not able to make logical decisions so the only people who will fear the penalties of evading police are those who have no intention of doing it. Moreover such penalties are more likely to be used against people who weren’t trying to evade police. On YouTube I have seen at least two stories of people being charged with evasion when they didn’t in one story a mother collecting her kids from school told off a cop for blocking the exit to a school entrance road just to book someone was pulled over out of spite and when she moved up a bit after stopping to allow him room to get out of traffic he accused her of trying to drive off, in another story a dumb kid stopped as was told to pull into a driveway by hand signals he mistook this for move on and the cops took this as an opportunity to go all out with spike strips and pitmanouvers and ramming into the drivers door and smashing the windshield and windows and dragging him out like the worst scum in the world all for a minor traffic violation that he may not have even committed. The kid said that there was heavy traffic and no where to stop so he thought the cop wanted him to proceed to the next intersection and turn off not pull into someone’s driveway.
    So two innocent people were charged with serious crimes they had no intention of committing. People who commit serious crimes do not care about the extra penalties they may rack up and may not even suffer the consequences of as most sentences are served concurrently so these extra penalties are little more than a placebo for the nanny minded and a danger to the innocent offender. (Innocent offender someone who commits a crime unknowingly believing they’re obeying the law or is forced into committing a crime by circumstance eg braking a car window to rescue a baby )
    With cameras helicopters radios and multiple vehicles there is no justification for any police chase. Chasing a desperate criminal only makes them more desperate and more likely to harm others in order to escape. Criminals who think they have gotten away will relax and when suddenly surrounded by police will usually give up without a fight but those who are still in flight mode will turn to fight mode and take hostages etc etc.

    So the message police need to put out is run and we won’t chase you but we will catch you!

  4. Big difference between chasing and shooting somebody for a minor traffic violation and chasing a dangerous criminal. It seems that this copper failed to make that distinction and now a man is dead. I am of the belief that the police should pursue idiots and crooks because failure to do so will embolden and encourage them to engage in reckless and dangerous driving, safe in the knowledge that so doing will cause the police to disengage. But the cops should use a bit more discretion when dealing with minor traffic infringements. Here in NSW we have Skye’s Law to provide stiffer penalties for not stopping; however, having been threatened with it for lane-splitting and not pulling over for an off duty Sutherland cop in a Toyota Yaris (who could have been anybody) shows that some people will abuse any power we give them.

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