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Countdown With Keith Olbermann

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Email your comments to: jharrissphillips@gmail.com

The following transcript appears on Countdown's site, apart of msnbc.com. Click here for more infomation.


STEWART:  If you have seen a police car chase on TV lately, there‘s a reason why more likely than not it‘s low speed.  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the risks of a high-speed chases.  Depending on the crime, it would seem police are better off letting the speeding vehicle escape than weaving through heavy traffic to catch the culprit. 

There are people in the D.C. are who not doubt think this.  Two people dead, 15 people injured, including two police officers, all because one motorcycle was speeding on the Capital Beltway outside Washington, D.C.   It happened last night during rush hour on the Maryland portion of the beltway in Prince George‘s County. 

A police cruiser tried to cut off the motorcycle, which swerved and sped off.  The police car then slammed into another vehicle, which caused that car to become airborne, over the median, and into oncoming traffic.  The chain reaction crash that followed involved five more cars.  All told, the seven car pile up closed down most lanes of traffic for five hours. 

The two innocent motorists have been since identified as Kevin McCarter (ph) of Fort Washington, Maryland and Sidney Clanton (ph) of Buffalo, New York.  Joining me now John Phillips, president of PursuitWatch.org, which tries to educate the public, the police and the press about police pursuits.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

JOHN PHILLIPS, PURSUITWATCH.ORG:   Absolutely, thanks for having me.

STEWART:  I want to break this down, focusing first on the incident last night.  We don‘t have video of that actual event or specific details yet, but generally, why would police ever try to intercept a speeding vehicle on a freeway or highway during rush hour? 

PHILLIPS:  I don‘t know.   I don‘t know what to tell you.  I can‘t tell you what the officers were thinking.  I can‘t explain why they would make that decision at a time like that, during rush hour traffic.  First off, even if it was a car, I wouldn‘t be able to justify the decision, much less a motorcycle, which could outrun just about any police car there is anyway. 

STEWART:  Who usually makes the call about when to go into a chase mode, specifically a high-speed chase? 

PHILLIPS:  It varies.  It could vary from the individual officer themselves up the chain of command. 

STEWART:  A lot of people talk about low-speed chases.  Are there risks involved there as well?  I mean, we shouldn‘t just assume that that‘s the safe way to go. 

PHILLIPS:  I think any chase is a chase in my book.  You can kill someone going 10 miles an hour.  You can kill someone going 110 miles an hour.  It doesn‘t matter.  A chase is a chase.  

STEWART:  On your site, you write that mandatory reporting of pursuit activity should be required by law enforcement agencies.  How do you think that would affect things? 

PHILLIPS:  I think you would see right now—you would see a spike in the number of fatalities, not so much a spike.   But as of right now it‘s a voluntary procedure, and that leads to a lower number than the actual number.  Also, many times a report is filed, let‘s say, the day after and a victim were to die three days later, so they might not count, even though they were clearly a victim. 

STEWART:  Shouldn‘t there be some sort of sliding scale based on the offense?  I mean, a kid steals a purse, jumps in his own car.  That has to be a whole lot different than a murderer or car jacking someone and taking off. 

PHILLIPS:  Absolutely.  What we‘ve done here in Orlando, in the central Florida area, is we‘ve gone to—police can pursue anything that is considered a violent crime.  So we have, like you said, a murder, a rapist, a car jacker; in those instances it is worth the risk, for lack of a better word, to apprehend the suspect as soon as possible.  Anything less than that, a busted tail light, speeding violation, anything like that; it‘s not worth the risk to the public, to the officers themselves and even those who are fleeing. 

Many times it‘s just a dumb, stupid kid making a very bad decision. 

It‘s not worth it.  It‘s that simple. 

STEWART:  John, how often do police review these policies and jurisdiction change or adapt their updates, their pursuit books?  

PHILLIPS:  I think we‘re starting to see a trend of more restrictive policies.  So policies that are not allowing officers to pursue at will.  There is, although, a little bit of people—there are some people who are against that.  But I think once these decisions are made to make policies more restrictive that everyone benefits and everyone agrees with that too.  

STEWART:  John Phillips, the president of PursuitWatch.org, thanks for taking the time tonight. 

PHILLIPS:  Absolutely, it was my pleasure. 



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