Blame drivers, not police, for chases

Point fingers where blame actually lies.

A letter was printed by Robert Leonard of Altoona on May 6 blasting police for high-speed chases.

Leonard asserts that cruiser repairs, risked lives and property damage cost taxpayers, thus suggesting pursuits should be completely abolished. The letter ended with “why waste the tax dollars for thrill seekers? If they want to race, get another job like in NASCAR.”

This opinion is so off-base from reality that it requires a rebuttal.

In the Brower v. Inyo County 489 US 593 (1989) case, the court ruled that a driver fleeing police still has freedom of choice, freedom of movement. Merely activating the lights and siren of a police car is not a 4th Amendment seizure.

It is that driver who refuses to stop; it is that driver who chooses to put others in harm’s way.

Most everyone will pull over when stopped by the police. When a driver tries to maneuver and flee from police, the officer does not know the driver’s intentions nor their motives.

Did they just commit a homicide? Are they hell-bent on hurting someone before police catch up to them? In my years in law enforcement, I have yet to meet an officer with ESP. Therefore, one never knows if the driver is a scared, joyriding teenager, a wanted fugitive or a hostage-holding carjacker.

There are policies and procedures in place to help officers determine whether or not to continue a pursuit. Would the risks to society be greater if the driver is allowed to flee?

Please do not point fingers at officers who put their lives at risk on a daily basis. If anyone wishes to play armchair quarterback, I too have a job suggestion: put yourself through the police academy and don a uniform. Feel free to have an informed opinion afterward.

Finally, I have yet to find an officer who loves the “thrill” of a pursuit. I’m sure anyone would be upset with the police if they did not actively track down someone who harmed them or their family.

Likewise, any thoughtful person should point fingers at the driver – the actual cause of the pursuit – and not the police.

John P. Polheber

Corporal (Retired)

Altoona Police