Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Accidents mount in face of Dallas constables', sheriff's outdated pursuit policies

Tanya Eiserer at the Dallas News is arguably the best crime-beat reporter in the Lone Star State, and a well-researched article last week about pursuit policies at the Dallas Sheriff and constables' offices is a good example why I say that.

After "Dallas County constables [were] involved in two of three police pursuits that occurred in the span of two days, including Monday's 90-minute chase that ended in a T-bone crash in Garland," Eiserer followed up with a story comparing pursuit policies acquired under the open records act for all the other constables' offices and large law enforcement agencies ("In Dallas County, sheriff's department and constables have wide latitude for pursing suspects," July 2). Here's an excerpt:

All five of the constable offices and the sheriff's department allow officers to chase fleeing motorists for any type of criminal infraction, including traffic violations.

Many other area enforcement agencies also allow officers to chase for traffic violations.

The sheriff's department's policy states that deputies should stop pursuing a fleeing motorist wanted on a traffic violation or some other Class C misdemeanor "when it becomes apparent that the violator will do whatever is necessary to evade the deputy."

The Dallas Police Department, the county's largest law enforcement agency, strictly limited police pursuits in 2006, allowing officers to chase only violent felony suspects.

Police have credited the policy with a sharp reduction in accidents, deaths and injuries. They also say they have found no evidence that criminals are more likely to flee as a result of the policy.

The constables and sheriff's department generally have similar limitations on what their officers cannot do, including driving the wrong way down a street, ramming a fleeing vehicle to force it off the road and setting up roadblocks.

Some set limitations on how many squad cars can be directly involved in the chase.

She's also not afraid to call "bullshit," politely, of course, when elected officials promote fallacious arguments:

The general consensus among elected county law enforcement agencies is that restricting when their officers could pursue would lead to a spike in lawlessness.

"The day that we make it known that we are not going to chase, more criminals are going to run from us and the likelihood of more accidents occurring is going to be higher," Dallas County Constable Jaime Cortes.

Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminologist who studies police pursuits, said that's a prevalent myth among officers and that research has shown that offenders are no more likely to flee after a department places restrictions on vehicle pursuits.

"Most people are fleeing for stupid reasons," Alpert said. "Police pursuits should be limited to violent crimes."

What makes Tanya's reporting special is that she doesn't stop at the obvious story - three crashes related to pursuits in two days, two by constables' deputies - but goes on to examine the institutional issue of whether their policies may have contributed to this unhappy confluence of events. And she does it routinely. Well done, as usual.


Anonymous said...

I just can't stand the thought of cops pursuing criminals! They are violating their rights! Let them go - no justice, no peace!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Gee, thanks for the smart-ass comment. Aren't you clever?

I can't stand the thought of a cop T-boning my car in an intersection with my granddaughter in the back seat because he has no more sense than to chase a 17 year old who rabbits on a traffic ticket.

Nobody said don't pursue violent felons - that's certainly not what the Dallas PD policy says. But police pursuits are the single most dangerous thing officers do, both for them and the public, and their policies should reflect better judgment regarding when it's worth the risk.

Anonymous said...

When talking about this subject, I cannot help but think about Sheriff Roscoe P. Coaltrain and that stupid dog 'Flash' .. If the police can make generalized comments on what they feel about the general citizenry, then I will hold my own generalization about Police and their incompetent methods.

"Cood gud gud gud...Ennis!!!!"

Anonymous said...

"Incompetent methods" makes me laugh. I would love to know what that poster does for a living and then see him try to do police work.

I think it is like the big fat guy with the beer belly saying a NFL player is a bum for missing a pass when the fat guy can't walk to the fridge without getting winded.

Anonymous said...

"Incompetent methods" makes me laugh. I would love to know what that poster does for a living and then see him try to do police work.

Actually, I am an ex-soldier who has seen more 'criminal' behavior than you will ever watching 'Cops"...

Any moron that believes police should make chase after some scared kid running from a minor violation needs to go back to playing Grand theft auto on their XBox. And if you are a cop, then maybe you need to look for another line of work, it is fairly obvious from your statement that you fully support chasing down, and putting innocent citizens at risk no matter what the violation.

Personally if the price of running down grandma and her grandchild are so low that cops, such as yourself, are willing to chase down someone who ran a red-light then I think your ability to analyze the situation is skewed.

And by the way, I have no problem walking to the fridge without getting winded. I wonder how far you can walk away from the donut shop without thinking that you should have gotten the pink one with sprinkles.

We know cops are the rejects that were bullied as children.

NoMoreNoloContendere said...

GFB, Great topic but you know it's going to explode into a mamouth pissin match. I'm w/ you, I can't tell if 11:39 was being facetious or an activist? But since they all look the same we may never know.

A few yrs. back while studying for my P.I. license, we took the camera out to get familar w/ night vision. We ended up being run off the road by a car w/ lights off. As we got back on the road 11 cop cars from DPS, Kaufman, Crandal, Combine & Seagoville passed us on each side. We followed the string of lights and ended up in (Lil Mexico)Dallas where 16 more joined in (27 total) & no choppers. They were told in spanish that had they stopped they would have only rec. a speeding ticket but now they are going to jail. They mostlikely plead No Contest and got off w/ a fine?

It seems like some of them could have broken off and headed them off at the pass instead being a string of Christmas lights on their bumper for 25 plus miles. You know like on TV. Thank God for no injuries in that one.

diogenes said...

I don't know what the fuss is about. The old saying "You can't outrun the radio" applies here. If a driver takes off on you, radio it in and let someone ahead take appropriate measures to head off the driver. I seriously doubt Dallas County only has one copnstable on duty at a time. Even if all the others are busy, most local departments have agreements to help each other. Be smarter than the criminals and think with your brains instead of your adrenaline. That's why training and policies exist.

gravyrug said...

diogenes is right. Unless the fleeing vehicle has people firing guns out the window, the better policy would seem to be calling in the license # and getting other cops to keep a lookout for it.

Anonymous said...

In the 30's, my dad ran from the Dallas police. Little did he know the officers were waiting on him in my grandparents driveway.

Boy do we long for those days.

Anonymous said...

More often than not, it isn't a "scared 17 year old", it's someone with outstanding warrants, or illegal drugs or guns, or the occasional murder victim in the trunk. Sometimes the violator is driving a stolen car, in which case a BOLO will only result finding a ditched car. This ain't CSI Miami where we can extract mitochondrial DNA from the steering wheel and find the suspect by the end of the shift. For a little education, take a look at Scott v. Harris or http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-04-30-scotus-police_N.htm

TL Dallas

San Diego Attorney said...

Interesting article. Better judgment is very important when going on these dangerous police pursuits to keep the police officers and public safe.

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