“To protect and to serve” is emblazoned on many police cruisers across the nation. This message is not just a simple decoration; it is a mandate, a mission statement and a promise to the people. The people, however, don’t seem to understand this pledge—or at least they seem to think it doesn’t involve some risk. A family in Houston is suing the city because one the family members was injured when the car in which he was riding was rear-ended by a suspect fleeing the police. The family maintains that the police should have broken off pursuit when the individual ran.
The police have a dangerous job. They have to put their lives on the line to try to protect their communities from those who would threaten the peace or break the law. This does not mean just identifying those who are “bad guys” and letting them go. It means taking these people off the streets so they can’t continue to break the law or endanger society. Now, these people do not want to be taken off the street. In fact, they are quite opposed to the idea and will try everything in their power to avoid it, including running from the police.
When people run from the police, the police must give chase. You cannot catch someone who is running without chasing them. The police are trained on the safest procedure for chasing. They take driving training and can probably outdrive the average person. Not every bad guy is The Bandit or Elwood Blues and can outdrive an entire police force. But they try. They usually fail. It is these people who cause accidents, not the police who chase them.
It is unfortunate when an accident happens like the one that injured those two men in the car that was rear-ended. But it is not the fault of the police. It is clearly the fault of the individual running from the police. If the family truly wants justice for their loss, they should sue that person driving the car who hit them, not the police or the city.
They will sue the city, of course, because chances are that the bad guy has no assets to be able to pay a judgment and the city is believed to have deep pockets. This is untrue—the city is funded by our taxes so we end up paying out of our pockets—but the lawyers and plaintiffs don’t care. They want their payday.
It doesn’t matter that the police did nothing wrong. It was not their fault that the accident occurred. The plaintiffs will contend that if the police were not chasing the bad guy, then the bad guy would not have driven recklessly and would not have hit them. It is a sad “what if” game to play to second-guess a decision. Had they not pursued that suspect, then the suspect would have gotten away with a crime and would probably commit another. The police must be allowed to do their job. They must be allowed to protect and to serve, even if that means taking a risk. Our security demands it.