A horrific crash during a high-speed police pursuit in California is again raising questions about why some law enforcement agencies give such wide latitude to officers to pursue drivers who are not suspected of a serious crime, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Jesus Loera, 21, was killed when he plowed his truck into a gas tanker while being pursued by Santa Clara County deputies. Many departments, including the San Jose police, have policies that generally discourage officers from such pursuits, but sheriff’s officials maintain the chase was legitimate.
In the past 18 months, there were accidents in 21 of the agency’s 68 pursuits, with nine suspects injured, according to data provided by the department. No deputies were hurt. In 16 of the 21 accidents, deputies were chasing suspects for traffic infractions. Three of those chases topped 100 mph. Police experts said pursuits often take dangerous criminals off the street. But Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor and author of “Police Pursuits: What We Know,” said it’s risky to make officers decide whether to chase someone or cut off a pursuit when they are in the heat of the moment. Alpert and other experts say that cops should let drivers go if they are not sure he is a dangerous felon.