Niagara Gazette


July 8, 2013

GUEST EDIT: Safety first priority in police pursuits

Niagara Gazette — It is midnight on June 22. Lockport Police Officer Steven Tarnowski is running radar on Summit Street in the city.

He observes a dark SUV traveling at 50 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone. He attempts to stop the vehicle with the intention of issuing a traffic ticket for speeding. However, the SUV accelerates away, turning onto South Transit Road and accelerates to almost 100 mph.

Officer Tarnowski follows with the hope the driver will pull over. Unfortunately, the vehicle drives through every red light from the city line to Robinson Road without slowing down, almost causing several traffic accidents. 

One of the most important decisions that a police officer can make is when to chase a vehicle that refuses to stop. The wrong decision can result in a dangerous felon escaping or an innocent motorist or pedestrian being injured or killed during the pursuit. 

I am sure many of you have seen police pursuits on television. Reality shows such as “World’s Most Dangerous Police Pursuits” or “COPS” are famous for showing the best and worst of police pursuits. These shows are exciting to watch and it always amazes me the dangerous lengths a criminal will go to escape police.

Pursuits are equally exciting for a police officer. The blaring siren, the flashing blue and red lights, and the exhilaration of the chase can cast a seductive spell. However, when making a decision to pursue, it is important for a police officer to divorce himself from the excitement of the chase and balance the need for public safety with the desire to make an arrest.

When making a decision to pursue a vehicle, a police officer must take into account several factors. Those factors include: 

• Time of the day and location — A pursuit down Main Street at noon on a Monday could be much more dangerous than at three in the morning. 

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