ACLU Study on Southland Police Pursuits
Re “Dangerous Police Pursuits on Rise, Analysis Finds,” June 14:
Kudos to the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. Its detailed study of police pursuits initiated by the Los Angeles Police Department and 11 other law enforcement agencies in the surrounding counties between 1993 and 1995 does the citizens of Los Angeles and all Californians a great service.
The study’s findings, namely, that pursuits and the resulting deaths and injuries in police pursuit accidents are on the rise, come as no surprise to the members of a national nonprofit organization called STOPP, Solutions to Tragedies of Police Pursuits. STOPP is composed of families who share a similar life experience; all have had loved ones killed or injured in an accident involving a police patrol car, whether in vehicular pursuit of a suspect or in responding to an emergency. We have joined together to offer support to other families and to work together to eliminate these senseless tragedies.
California has a shocking record in this regard. For the last 15 years, it has been the No. 1 state in the country in the number of fatalities in police pursuit accidents reported annually. Moreover, the study’s findings that most of the LAPD’s fatal chases were in pursuit of suspects wanted for violating a vehicle code infraction, and not a serious crime, support studies done by criminal justice scholars across the country: 70% to 80% of police pursuits are initiated for traffic violations.
STOPP believes that a chase is only justified for a known violent felon, a suspect who has inflicted serious injury or death or who poses an imminent threat to do so. This type of policy, which is being adopted by many law enforcement agencies across the county, puts the public’s safety first.
LETITIA E. LANDRY
Executive Director, STOPP
When I was young and stupid in Detroit, several of my friends tried to outrun the police. At the end of the chase they were “beat up real good.” I saw the results. Everyone knew the unwritten rule (that at the end of a police chase came a beating). Later, there were times when I didn’t feel like being pulled over and thought about fleeing. The memory of seeing their blackened eyes and smashed noses kept me from doing so.
If beatings will cut down on police pursuits, I’m for them. How many innocents have to get killed or maimed by the Rodney Kings of the world before you see the light and back the police who are, after all, the ones risking their necks to protect us from the bad guys?