Unintended consequences of a hypothetical police pursuit


Imagine that during roll call your sergeant assigns you a civilian ridealong for today’s tour. You and your ridealong hit the streets, and for the first two hours there’s nothing stirring. You’re about to grab a cup of coffee with your ridealong when you observe a felony wagon commit a simple traffic violation — let’s say it rolls through a yield sign. 

You activate your overheads. The wagon shows no signs of slowing, so you activate your sirens. The vehicle is still not stopping, and by now you’ve rolled through two more intersections as the suspect’s vehicle accelerates.

You’ve reached speeds greater than the posted speed limit, and you grab the mic and advise dispatch that you have a fleeing vehicle. Just as you place the mic back in its cradle, an unsuspecting motorist crosses your bow and you collide with his car. 

The push bumpers of your cruiser impact the driver’s side door of the motorist’s car. Your cruiser spins out of control, and comes to rest as it wraps itself around a steel street light post. 

The vehicle you just rammed rolls over and ejects the driver from his car.

The original offender keeps on driving and flees the scene. 

You awake in a hospital bed. You’re reassured by your family and coworkers that you’re OK but they break the bad news to you that the driver of the vehicle you collided with didn’t live. 

Your immediate supervisor has stood by with your family in a vigil waiting for you to wake also. He doesn’t waste any time to comfort you as he tells you that you followed procedures and everything will be fine. 

The community at large may not be as forgiving. You know this.

You close your eyes with grief and think of the unintended consequences of that pursuit...

Now, back in reality — in this moment, as you read this — close your eyes and think of the potential unintended consequences for a real-world pursuit you have not even yet initiated. 

Give this problem some when/then thinking now. And stay safe. 

About the author

Glenn French, a retired Sergeant with the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Police Department, has 24 years police experience and served as the Team Commander for the Special Response Team, and supervisor of the Sterling Heights Police Department Training Bureau. He has 16 years SWAT experience and also served as a Sniper Team Leader, REACT Team Leader, and Explosive Breacher.

Contact Glenn French.

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