Another Police Chase, Another Innocent Bystander Killed

Bexar County patch
Bexar County patch

Deputy Chases Man Seen Driving Recklessly

(TX) – A deputy with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office initiated a chase in the early hours of this morning, after spotting a person driving recklessly. We have become so numb to this type of story that reporters don’t even bother giving many details anymore. According to KSAT 12, at approximately 1 am this morning, a deputy saw a small gray vehicle “hit several curbs.” Notice, there is nothing about speeding. The person was not able to maintain the lane of travel properly. The un-named deputy attempted to stop the vehicle. The article doesn’t say, but we can safely assume that means he turned on his lights and siren. According to the news article the car, “refused to stop.” We have no indication of whether the driver increased speed. The majority of the time, the driver does speed up so let’s say that happened. The deputy initiates a chase.

Deputy’s Actions Increased the Danger

A person committed the crime of Reckless Driving. In Texas, the penalty for that is a cross between a Class C misdemeanor (a ticket) and a Class B misdemeanor (the lowest level criminal charge). The driving recklessly charge was because the unidentified man hit the curb a few of times. Once the deputy began a police chase, the reckless driver increased his recklessness significantly. Now he’s probably speeding, though that is not stated in the article, but it does state that he “passed through traffic lights.” What does that mean? Did he or did he not run red lights? If they weren’t red then this is just sensationalizing the story. I pass through traffic lights pretty much every time I drive. The article does say he drove in the “wrong direction.” I’m not sure if that means he was on the wrong side of the road or he went the wrong way down a one-way street. Regardless, while going in the wrong direction, the driver crashed into two other vehicles, killing one of the drivers.

Reckless Driving is a Red Flag

Someone driving recklessly is a red flag. It is an obvious indicator they could be willing to drive even more recklessly. Yet, police continue to pounce, without thinking, like cats chasing a moving object. In this case the person was hitting the curb which indicates the driver may have been impaired. The officer was correct to activate his lights and siren. He was even correct to speed up to keep pace with the suspect. But once he realized that the individual was not going to stop, a strategic decision needed to be made. Was the public safer with the man driving at normal speeds and occasionally hitting the curb or are they safer with him speeding through red lights and going the wrong way down a street? In this case, the answer is easy. An innocent bystander was killed and the initiation of the chase was absolutely a part of that death.

Could Strategic Thinking Lower Police Chase Fatalities

According to USA Today, about a third of police chases results in a crash. They took information from 1979-2013 and found that 11,506 people had been killed in those crashes. The people killed included the suspect, passengers in the suspect’s vehicle, innocent bystanders, and yes, police officers. 62% of those chases started because of a traffic violation, just like this one.

Is there a better way? If the officer turned off his lights and siren and dropped back then let other officers know which direction they were heading so those officers could block the road, could they have caught the driver that way? Would the driver have relaxed enough without the pressure of the lights, siren and an officer right on his tail, to start thinking clearly? Or is it too late at this point? But lights and sirens aren’t just for the offender, they’re to warn innocent bystanders to be careful. No lights or siren is just another dangerous situation. So maybe the strategic thinking needed, until we have a better option, is deciding when to stop the chase. The San Antonio Police Department has recognized this and has instigated guidelines for stopping a chase. Sheriff Salazar has again failed to protect the citizens of Bexar County and more than likely, the County will be facing another lawsuit because of his ineptitude.

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