Another high-speed chase leads to death, this time of two people in one vehicle. A crash on Monday, April 30, 2012, after a chase by a Fort Bend County Sheriff’s deputy, claimed the lives of a man and a woman, and severely injured another young woman in the car. In addition, a separate high-speed chase lead to the death on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 of a man in north Houston.
Those who died in these events were in vehicles fleeing from law enforcement. However, speeding cars in chases also endanger the lives of police officers as well as innocent users of public streets and highways.
Law enforcement officials have long known of the risks imposed by high-speed chases. In addition, police departments have alternative strategies available to apprehend suspects attempting to evade arrest. Accordingly, various jurisdictions have developed policies to avoid high-speed pursuits. The goal is to minimize the chance that violators will injure or kill other motorists, while still preventing escapes.
Texas law favors police officers conducting high-speed chases so strongly that they are virtually immune from the consequences of their decisions. First, the law requires damages suits to be brought against their employing agency, rather than against the officers themselves. And second, it creates qualified immunity even when the officers are negligent, which effectively shields the agency. Thus, there is almost no accountability to the victims, and therefore no legal incentive to improve tactics when suspects attempt to flee. Until the law is changed by the Texas Legislature, or policymakers impose on law enforcement agencies more modern and safer approaches to apprehending suspects, we can expect further injuries and loss of life as a result of high-speed chases.