St. Louis, MO — As frequent readers of the Free Thought Project likely understand, police chases — even for minor infractions — can often have deadly consequences. Over the years we've reported on chases for misdemeanors in which countless innocent people, including children have been killed due to the reckless nature of such practices.
Never before have we reported on 7 innocent people in one city being killed in a two-week period. Unfortunately, however, for the citizens of St. Louis, this is now a reality.
The St. Louis chapter of the NAACP is reportedly outraged and seeking intervention by the U.S. Justice Department after 7 innocent motorists, including 2 children, have been killed in the last two weeks during high speed pursuits by police.
"I think the police should be charged also," Sierra Wilson said in an interview about the crashes with the Post-Dispatch.
Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP, told the Post-Dispatch that it amounts to a public emergency.
“What is the department doing to mitigate this, because we see this as a public safety emergency,” Pruitt said.
“Listen,” Pruitt said, “we have two sets of people on the street playing cops and robbers: police and assailants.
“And the assailants, unfortunately, are not concerned with who is getting in their way when they’re trying to get away from the cops. And the cops are more concerned about catching them,” Pruitt said.
None of the suspects who were being pursued died in the crashes, only innocent bystanders.
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“We’re going to use every leverage to end this type of behavior of car chases,” John Bowman, head of the NAACP’s St. Louis County chapter said. “Why can’t we operate where you use your radios or your helicopters? Why can’t we do these things to avoid putting people in danger?”
Sadly, however, this issue has been brought up many times in the past and very little has changed. Cops keep chasing criminals and innocent people keep dying as a result.
In fact, as TFTP has reported, it happens a lot — thousands of times. According to a recently published research study by the Fine Law Firm and 1Point21 Interactive, over 2,000 citizens over a four-year period were killed by cops as police were chasing suspect vehicles. Surprisingly, more than half of those killed were not the suspects.
An analysis by the Fine Law Firm and 1Point21 Interactive found that there were 1,699 fatal crashes involving police chases from 2014-2018, killing at least 2,005 people – 1,123 were not the driver of the fleeing vehicle.
That number might be much higher because, just as with officer involved shootings, those killed by cop statistics are not required to be reported to any federal government database anywhere. Currently, officer-involved shooting deaths are only voluntarily reported to the FBI.
We spoke to Brian Beltz, Research Lead at 1Point21 Interactive via email, who tells TFTP that this study hits home as he knew someone who died from a police chase.
“This issue has been pretty close to my heart for several years. One of my best friends lost his father in a collision with a vehicle fleeing the police. He was simply driving through an intersection and was t-boned by the fleeing driver. While I can't say whether or not the chase was justified, being in the position to examine the data and be involved in the study was cathartic in a way. Hopefully, people see the results and it helps make sure that every department has and follows appropriate policies and training on how and when to chase suspects. I also hope it makes people who are stopped for non-violent and traffic offenses think twice about running. It puts innocent people’s lives in jeopardy.”
We also spoke to David Fine, attorney at Fine Law Firm via email who points out that like Jackson's case, where the suspects were on foot, the chases are almost never worth it.
“The study cuts to a core risk-benefit analysis that underlies policing and police misconduct litigation. The touchstone question for assessing police conduct is reasonableness-under-the-circumstances. On balance, the apprehension of a criminal suspect ceases to be reasonable if it poses a substantial risk of injury to the traveling public. Because they are a window into how police departments assess public safety risks, pursuit cases provide important insights into the legal and cultural health of police departments.”