In pursuit of criminals, law enforcement officers sometimes must give chase, and that includes on foot and in vehicles. Police pursuits on foot might result in someone near the officer and suspect taking an accidental fall when one or both of them go down in a scuffle. Pursuits in a police vehicle, however, pose the greatest risk to all involved, including the general public, and can end in deaths and the destruction of property.
Chasing a fleeing criminal or suspect can result in physical harm to the officer, the suspect and any bystander involved. But when this police pursuit takes place in vehicles the risk for physical harm grows. Suspects can lose control of their vehicle due to their own operator errors and failures as well as due to law enforcement techniques used to try and stop them. In addition, a pedestrian or other vehicle can cross the path of fleeing criminals and police as well, unintentionally, resulting in harm that way. This is generally due to fleeing or pursuing vehicles attempting to swerve and miss them or making physical contact when they cannot. According to an article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, "One person dies every day as a result of a police pursuit." And that person could be an officer, the suspect or an innocent bystander.
As criminals flee from responding officers in motor vehicles, the likelihood a crash will result is high. According to a recent article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, a Minnesota research study conducted from June 2007 to July 2008 showed that in approximately 10,000 Minnesota police pursuits, 34 percent of them involved a crash by the suspect. When suspects crash, homes, businesses and other property can be damaged as a result, including property damage to other vehicles.
Police departments and criminal suspects run the risk of suffering legal consequences when they engage in high-speed road activity. Criminals can incur additional charges, including fleeing an officer, as well as any that may result due to loss of bystander life or property. Likewise, law enforcement officers or departments can be held legally liable for pursuits that proceed after an officer has been told to end the pursuit, but doesn't, or if the pursuit resulted in questionable actions or risks to life and property in the area.
In Las Vegas, a trial is slated to being in May 2011 for a police officer charged with manslaughter after the suspect he was pursuing crashed and died. The pursuit, as is often the case, was a result of the effort to apprehend someone who resisted law enforcement. However, the legal issues raised --- and the resulting manslaughter charge --- stems from the police officer allegedly not responding to his supervisor's admonition to cease the chase.
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