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Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Comment


In the October 25 edition of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle I was quoted in an article titled, "Baby Safe after Police Chase." The day before I was contacted by a reporter for the paper who was seeking comment on a chase that had taken place in Ontario County. A Rochester woman was seen running a red light and refused to stop when asked by police. A chase ensued, ending six minutes later when she rammed a police cruiser. All this occurred with her infant daughter in the back seat.

PursuitWatch is against this pursuit, and those like it. Traffic violations such as running red lights are not worthy of a chase. The poor decisions of the police involved because evermore obvious with the finding of the precious cargo.

Regardless, the article was as follows:

John Phillips, president of a national organization called PursuitWatch.Org that advocates safer police-chase policies, said Monday night's chase wasn't worth the risk to the driver, her daughter, the police or any innocent bystanders. The troopers could have simply recorded the woman's license plate number and arrested her later, he said.

"With today's technology, we don't need to resort to old-school police tactics," said Phillips,  whose sister was killed in 2001 in Orlando, Fla., when her car was hit by a vehicle driven by someone fleeing police. "They're basically playing Russian roulette."
Read the entire article here.

Troubling to me was "The troopers could have simply recorded the woman's license plate number and arrested her later, he said." I did mention the use of license plates as a way to identify cars and not pursue. However, I did not say that this can be done in every case.

An anonymous officer put it well in PursuitWatch's Guestbook (The Guestbook is no longer online).

Mr. Phillips. I am a police officer and have been for 11 yrs. I have been involved in several pursuits and have terminated some of them because they were unreasonably dangerous. I read a comment you made in the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, NY in regards to a police chase on 10/23/06 in Ontario County, NY. You claim that "troopers could have simply recorded the woman's license plate number and arrested her later." This is very often not the case. Many pursuits are of stolen cars and in many more the driver is not the registered owner. Believe it or not, the registered owner, if he or she can even be found later, will lie to the police about who was driving the car when it fled from police. Most people who flee from police do it because they are criminals and penalties for doing so should be severe. Obviously police need to use good judgement but if you take away the ability for police to pursue, you might as well take away their guns and handcuffs too and just let the criminals take over.

The issues with hunting down suspects using license plate numbers are real, yet worth it when the crime in question (that is, the crime that triggered the officers attention before the suspect fled) is a traffic violation.

I thank the officer for his comment, and apologize that the article gives the impression that police work is a simple task.

John Phillips



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