Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dozen Dallas officers disciplined for high-speed chase violations

Given that traffic accidents are the most common cause of on-the-job deaths for police officers, this action by the Dallas PD makes sense even if officers seemingly reflexively chafe at limits on high speed chases. Reported the Dallas News ("More than a dozen police officers disciplined for roles in 2009 chase," May 26):
More than a dozen Dallas police officers, including a supervisor, have been disciplined over a lengthy May 2009 high-speed chase of carjacking suspects during rush-hour traffic.

Punishments range from two 5-day suspensions, to the recommendation that two officers be demoted and minor discipline such as written counseling.

An internal investigation earlier concluded that numerous officers violated the department’s pursuit or emergency driving policies while heading to the chase, while actively involved in it, or while following it.

Those violations included barreling through school zones and residential areas at high speeds, running up on sidewalks, failing to obey traffic control devices and going the wrong way on one-way streets.

“Operating a motor vehicle – a four-ton police car – in that manner was reckless,” said Assistant Police Chief Floyd Simpson, who supervises the city’s seven patrol stations.
An attorney for the officers impudently tried to claim that “Yet again the department has taken over a year to second-guess the split-second decisions of hard-working officers pursuing a car full of aggravated robbery suspects.” But those split second decisions overrode both the officers' training and department policy, and if they're allowed to flaunt those policies without consequence then other officers will do the same next time around.

Ironically, given that sort of resentment by line officers over restrictions on high-speed chases, such policies are largely designed to protect officers, who are most at risk in such situations. But they also protect the public. In this case, "In-car video shows children on the sidewalks as a patrol car races through a school zone."

When policymakers look for ways to make police officers' job safer, this is one of the most effective available methods that's actually within the department's control. Nobody can prevent a crook from taking a shot at an officer, but supervisors can prevent that same officer from driving recklessly and harming themselves or others, and they're right to do so.

RELATED: Via Unfair Park, the Dallas County Sheriff's Office has posted this short video to YouTube "the Sheriff's Department's latest offering: "a short video highlighting the importance of safe driving of squad cars," which Robert Wilonsky notes "consists almost entirely of smash-em-ups filmed from dashcams." The video points out in the opening that in 2008, 41 US police officers were killed feloniously, and 68 were killed in accidents.

See related Grits posts:


Texas Law Enforcement Blog said...

I am glad I do not work for the Dallas Police Department.

However, I think that this is a great lesson for new Dallas officers.

Don't chase cars EVER! Let the criminals go. If they kill, steal, injure someone it doesn't matter (in Dallas) as long as the police were not chasing them. Less liability for your career. Only apprehend people that stay put.

We really do not severely punish those who run from the police. We punish the police for chasing the criminals. Makes sense in Dallas.

However, there is normally policy against "deliberate indifference" for not attempting to apprehend the criminal.

Damned if you do. Damned if you don't. I am glad I am no longer on patrol...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Matthew you're full of it. Nobody said don't chase crooks and it's not "deliberate indifference" to follow department policy. In fact, you're the one who seems indifferent to the rules and seem to think you're above the law.

People who run from police in a vehicle are charged with a felony. So you're either ignorant or lying when you say "We really do not severely punish those who run from the police."

By contrast, these officers got minor on the job discipline for needlessly putting lives at risk, and rightfully so. Bottom line: If you can't follow the rules laid down at your job and resent the people you're supposed to protect, Dallas is probably damn lucky not to have you.

Anonymous said...

Matthew, part of the reason dash cams are helpful is that they can catch criminals and their cars on video, so at least if they run away, there's still evidence that can be used once they are apprehended.

Unknown said...

Holy Crap! A FOUR TON vehicle?

Tell me what dealership I can get that Crown Vic at. That puts my one ton truck to shame.

Anonymous said...

One of the comments at Unfair Park made a good point:

"I'd like to see that same video with a different soundtrack -- say, "Yakity Sax" -- played behind it. I bet it'd lose a solid 84% of its creepiness."

Texas Law Enforcement Blog said...

Grits, most people who run from the police get off most often with probation. Even when they do it multiple times.

So they dump their contraband, and get off with probation. Good policy.

That is from my street experience. I have seen it. This is something that you are in fact ignorant of. Get some statistics on this and get back to me before you start name calling.

By the way, I do follow the rules of MY agency and the laws of the State of Texas.

I don't know if you have ever chased anyone but you actually have to keep up with them to catch them. If they are in a stolen vehicle getting their license plate won't get you anywhere. Such is the business of carjackings.

Also, police officers are allowed to disregard traffic laws when it serves a law enforcement purpose. Look it up.

What I was trying to say is that DPD's policy is so restrictive that it would be better that the police NEVER chased anyone. I have friends that are on DPD. The less you do, the better off you are. Write your tickets, arrest non-violent persons and you will be fine. Actually go get criminals that run and fight? That is when you get into trouble in Dallas. Ask around and learn something. Actually talk to some of their police officers instead of just writing ABOUT them. That would be something similar to actual JOURNALISM... Who'd of thunk' it?

Peace out.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Matthew says: "police officers are allowed to disregard traffic laws when it serves a law enforcement purpose"

Except when your violation of law also violates departmental policy, as in this instance with cops speeding through school zones, etc.. News Flash: If your department says you can't speed in a school zone, you don't get to! Why do you arrogantly believe those policies don't apply to patrol officers? You claim you follow the rules of your agency but your attitude is any restriction on you is evidence that some hug-a-thug liberal hates cops, even when police supervisors are the ones enacting the restrictions.

Also, listening to Dallas officers whine about discipline isn't journalism, it's water torture. Yes, many of them think they should get to violate any law or policy, and they're SHOCKED when a supervisor reins them in and disciplines them. That's not news; it's ever been thus.

What you say about the rules meaning they can't chase at all in Dallas is simply false so it doesn't deserve rebuttal. Plenty of agencies (like San Antonio) have even more restrictive chase policies. And if a vehicle gets away from you and you'd have to break the rules to chase, try using your radio and calling ahead to the next guy. There's more than one way to skin a cat.

Texas Law Enforcement Blog said...

Now, that was a skilled response that I was hoping for!

R. Shackleford said...

Remind me not to put my kids in any school on Matthew's patrol route.