High Court Case Raises Key Police Pursuit Issues


The Supreme Court today hears a case that will test the limits of what officers can do to stop speeding drivers in high-speed chases, reports Hearst Newspapers. At issue is whether a Georgia police officer went too far when he rammed his vehicle into a car driven by a fleeing 19-year-old, leaving the motorist paralyzed. Law enforcement officers are concerned that a ruling for the quadriplegic driver would put them in legal jeopardy for split-second decisions at crime scenes. Civil liberties advocates and critics of police chases are concerned that a ruling for the officer would give law enforcement the green light to use more aggressive tactics.

Law enforcement agencies should “authorize high-speed pursuits only when necessary,” said Karen Blum, a law professor at Boston’s Suffolk University who filed a brief in the case for the National Police Accountability Project. Lower federal courts have said the Georgia officer can be held liable in civil court. The deputy was acting “reasonably,” argued his attorney, because a “fleeing car can be a deadly weapon” and the officer “believed that his actions avoided a greater risk of serious injury or death.” Two earlier high court rulings on the use of deadly force occurred two decades ago — and those did not deal with car chases.

Link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/02/25/MNGOIOAQ4J1.DTL

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