Stop Endangering Lives with ‘Hot’ Police Pursuits | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Stop Endangering Lives with ‘Hot’ Police Pursuits

In 2012, young mother Milinda Clark was hit by a car going 100 miles per hour in a Flowood intersection and killed. Why? Police from Madison County were chasing people they suspected of stealing groceries from the Ridgeland Kroger through crowded suburban streets in broad daylight.

Two weeks ago, Madison police got a call from the Jackson Target about auto-burglary suspects who might be using stolen credit cards there. The officers showed up and began chasing the suspects deep into Jackson in what the Jackson Police Department called "hot" pursuit, causing two accidents, injuring an innocent bystander and causing $30,000 worth of damage to a local building.

Those two instances had two major things in common besides the fact that they seemed at the behest of big-box stores: First, none of the suspects was suspected of actually hurting a person, which might justify such a TV-drama police chase. Second, they both caused much more damage than the people were actually accused of inflicting.

Oh, and a third one: The police response was dumb, overblown and very dangerous to public safety.

Here in Jackson, the police department has caught up with modern criminal-justice best practices based on the reality that high-speed police pursuits must be limited to situations where the risk of not pursuing is higher than the risk of a pursuit. As you can read in Haley Ferretti's report on page 10, JPD has paid attention to the dangers of pursuits and the research showing how often high-speed pursuits kill people (averaging one life a day nationally).

Meantime, suburban law-enforcement agencies continue to conduct themselves in a wild-wild-west fashion, seeming to think that any crime merits the police barreling through streets chasing down the suspect like Keystone cops—except that these chases aren't funny. Ask the family of Milinda Clark and others right here in the metro who have lost loved ones to such chases.

Adding insult to injury, suburban cops seem to think they have the right to leave their jurisdiction and endanger lives in nearby towns and communities as well. This cannot continue.

JPD rightly asked the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations to look into this clearly unnecessary police pursuit—based on the facts the Madison police themselves provided.

In addition, members of the public must become educated about the risks of high-speed pursuits—before losing an innocent loved one—and demand loudly that these suburban agencies move into the 21st century. They must adopt smart police-pursuit policies with teeth, and then reveal them to the public on demand.

They work for us, and they are supposed to protect our safety, not endanger it.

Support our reporting -- Follow the MFP.