Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Restrictions proposed for police chases

By CHANTAL COOK
Capital News Service

LANSING – Police chases would be slowed down under a proposed bill that would limit reasons for pursuing drivers.

The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality is pushing the legislation to prohibit police chases except in cases of imminent danger.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, is slated to be introduced in the House Judiciary Committee this month.

In 2007, a driver fleeing from Detroit police rammed another car, killing three innocent men. Their families were not able to collect money for their deaths due to a law says a person can’t sue a police agency or officer for decisions made during a chase.

The mother of one of the men collected petitions from 1,000 citizens to bring attention to the issue.

Ron Scott, of the coalition, said his organization has been pushing the issue for 13 years.

“A number of citizens are being killed and there are very few protocols that police adhere to,” Scott said.

“We look at this as the sanctity of human life,” Scott said.

Under the bill, pursuits would be limited to two vehicles at a time, and police could chase suspects only in situations of imminent danger. It also would require police vehicles to yield to traffic.

Imminent danger is defined as cases where injury or loss of life is at hand.

Pulling over drivers due to a traffic violation would not be considered an imminent danger and therefore pursuit would be banned if the car flees.

Sgt. Christopher Hawkins, of the executive resource section at the State Police, said the department is opposed to the bill as written because it would make it harder to catch criminals.

“A lot of fugitives are caught in ordinary traffic stops,” Hawkins said. “Many times when we pull someone over, we find drugs, guns, warrants or find that this person is a fugitive.”

He said that denying police the option of chasing a driver would give fugitives an upper hand because they would know that the police can’t stop them.

But Scott said police and cities around the country have addressed problems with chases and have modified their laws.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Legislation

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