Supreme Court justices hearing arguments yesterday on high-speed police chases signaled that they were likely to shield officers from being sued for ramming a fleeing car and forcing it off the road, reports the Los Angeles Times. Most ustices said a speeding car posed an extraordinary danger to other motorists and might justify the use of force to stop the fleeing suspect. The case has drawn wide attention because of continuing controversy over high-speed police pursuits.
In the case at court, a fleeing 19-year-old sped through red lights and raced at more than 90 mph on a two-lane road in rural Georgia. He was paralyzed after a police cruiser hit his car and sent it careening over an embankment. It was “the scariest chase I ever saw since ‘The French Connection,’ ” said Justice Antonin Scalia, describing the police video of the chase. Most police departments have adopted guidelines to limit chases because of the danger they pose. Still, more than 300 people a year die because of high-speed pursuits – most of them the fleeing motorists, but many of them bystanders. Despite the scene on the police video, the Georgia driver won two preliminary victories in lower courts.