By on March 25, 2012

Since I posted this article in 2009, the city of Milford has settled for $2.5M with the family of David Servin, one of the victims of the incident discussed below. The police officer driving the vehicle is facing manslaughter charges. Note that manslaughter cases don’t normally drag for three years before going to trial; that’s a little courtesy that the local “justice” system is doing for Officer Anderson. Go run someone down in the street in most American cities and you will be facing a jury within six months, tops — JB

The nice folks at Jalopnik link to us so often, it’s the least I can do to begin this column by suggesting you watch this video over there. For those of you who don’t like watching videos, this particular one shows a police car operating at a velocity of ninety-four miles per hour in a marked 40 zone. At around the one-minute mark, we see the police car strike a Mazda containing two teenagers. Both are killed. The police car is not running its lights, was not operating the siren, and was not even responding to an emergency.

Here’s the best (or worst) part: the officer who killed the kids, Jason Anderson, was apparently “racing” the officer whose car recorded the video, one Richard Pisani. Pisani is traveling at about 74 mph during one part of the video. In a marked 40. I cannot find any evidence that Officer Pisani was in any way disciplined for his conduct. Think about that for a moment.

Perhaps most worryingly, the video shows absolutely no awareness, driving ability, or evidence of the vaunted “high-speed police training” on the part of Officer Anderson. It’s fairly obvious that the Mazda is going to cross Anderson’s path. We’re regularly told that by police departments that their officers have “special training”, but this is an accident that most solid NASA HPDE drivers could easily avoid. A modest amount of steering to the left would have saved two lives. Instead, Anderson simply drives right into the Mazda, with his car’s “black box” recording 100% accelerator pressure up to the crash. He was flat-out to the very end.

The good news is that the technology exists to prevent a tragic event such as this from ever happening again. In fact, the technology has existed for a very, very long time, and it could be easily installed on every police vehicle in the country. Let’s discuss.

I live in a little suburb outside Columbus, Ohio. My afternoon commute takes me through an even smaller suburb of perhaps five hundred residents. This suburb rigorously enforces a 40mph limit on the 1.5 miles of state highway passing through its borders, and it has at least two police-liveried Explorers with which to do so. I’m used to having my lime-green Audi S5 lit up with multiple laser shots and frustrated, angry looks from those Explorers as I cruise-control by at 38 miles per hour, not a bit more. I know that if I stray above forty I’ll be ticketed. A friend of mine got a $200-ish ticket a while ago for running his Supra by the local yokels at forty-five.

Today, as I was idling through that town, I was nearly struck head-on by one of the aforementioned police Explorers, running flat-out to catch a speeder. I’m no accurate judge of oncoming-vehicle speed (and, for that matter, neither is anyone else I’ve ever met) but I think it’s fair to say this cop was doing at least sixty, maybe seventy, and he was treating the double-yellow separating me from him with a considerable amount of disregard. It didn’t take me much mental effort to move over and avoid a collision, but it started me thinking about some basic assumptions regarding speeding and police conduct.

We can start by examining the most basic assumption regarding speeding, namely the idea that there should be such an offense. For better or worse, I’m inclined to think that some sort of speed limit is a reasonable idea. I’d like to buzz down the freeway at a buck-fifty, and I occasionally do buzz down the freeway at a buck-fifty, but I’m not certain that the current states of vehicle repair, tire inflation, driver education, and drug/alcohol/phone/boomin’-system use in this country support the idea of unlimited speed on all roads.

Now we arrive at the first contradiction in modern speeding laws: the fine-based approach. If you break a speed limit by less than thirty miles per hour in most areas, you will be fined and/or receive “points” on your license. If speeding is dangerous, and if people die from speeding, why aren’t speeders thrown in jail? Throwing old-school “Jarts” into a crowd is dangerous, and if you get caught doing it chances are you won’t simply be permitted to avoid criminal penalities by mailing a hundred bucks to your local mayor’s court. Why do we, as a society, treat speeding differently? Could it be a tacit recognition by the justice system of the fact that nearly everyone exceeds the artificially low speed limits in the United States?

Of course, if you live in an area where photo radar or some other Orwellian automatic enforcement hasn’t yet become popular, you will have to receive your speeding ticket from a police officer. Unless you slow down below the posted limit upon seeing said cop and then patiently wait for him or her to arrive behind you, your pursuer will have to break the speed limit as well.

Think about that. It’s not usually necessary to murder people to catch a murderer, nor is it necessary to rape innocent bystanders to punish a rapist. If your car was stolen, you would not expect the policeman taking your report to arrive in a stolen car. And yet we generally accept the idea that a police officer will break the speed limit in order to catch speeders. Even more interestingly, we accept that it will be “necessary” to break the speed limit by considerably more than the original offender did.

Some back-of-the-envelope stuff: If a driver is doing fifty in a forty and passes a stationary cop in a P71 Crown Vic “Police Interceptor”, that cop will need at least ten seconds to pull out and accelerate to fifty miles per hour. At that point, he is at least four hundred feet behind the speeder, probably more. If he wants to catch that speeder within three or so minutes and stay within his jurisdiction, he needs to step it up to fifty-five or sixty miles per hour. He’s now doing half again the speed limit and possibly represents a greater threat to the public welfare than the original offender.

This wouldn’t be a problem if cops didn’t crash, but they do. All the time, as a matter of fact. A long time ago, I had a police firearms instructor tell me, “There are two things cops can’t do: shoot and drive.” He was right. NHTSA states that over 3,000 people have died in police chases during the past decade. In 2001, for example, 365 people were killed, including 140 who were in no way involved with the chase. For more information, check out Victims Of Police Pursuit. Many municipalities are moving to reduce high-speed chases — or eliminate them altogether.

If we, as a society, are not willing to risk innocent lives to catch bank robbers or fleeing felons, why should we endure a similar risk simply to tax motorists who are often traveling at a speed which is entirely reasonable and appropriate for the conditions? Speed limits could still be enforced through cameras, automated devices, and the old Ohio Highway Patrol standby of having a cop call ahead to another cop up the road who waves the motorist over to receive a ticket. If this increases the cost of speeding enforcement, perhaps it will inspire municipalities, and the citizens of those municipalities, to more closely consider whether their police are best serving the public by serving as roadside tax collectors.

It seems reasonable enough that police shouldn’t be allowed to drag-race down the road, endangering the public simply to write tickets. The problem then becomes: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will watch the watchers? How can police be prevented from endangering the public? In the long run, an OnStar-style system of GPS-based speed management could be used to ensure that police (and, come to think of it, any other person who suckles from the teat of public employment) adhere to the speed limit at all times. This is the only fair system. While I’m sure that we all like the idea of police rushing at triple digit-speeds to save us from a home invasion, that implies that the lives of crime victims are somehow more valuable than the lives being risked by police who operate vehicles at a speed beyond their capacities. If a policeman kills innocent kids through negligent speed, does the fact that he is rushing to respond to a break-in bring those kids back to life?

While we are waiting for a perfect, nationwide-capable GPS speed-enforcement mechanism to arrive, action can still be taken to save thousands of lives every decade. It’s this simple: an electronic speed governor can be installed on every cop car. The maximum speed should be set to the limit chosen by that state for two-lane highways. Simple as that. For most states, that limit is fifty-five miles per hour.

As fate would have it, a few months prior to the Milford crash, the Connecticut State Senator for Milford had opined that a broad increase in requirements and penalties for teenaged drivers would be justified “if it saves one life.” I don’t know if changing the curfew for teen drivers from midnight to eleven p.m. will save any lives, but I’m pretty sure that governing the Milford Police’s cruisers to fifty-five would have saved two lives. Those lives have names: Ashlie Krakowski and David Servin.

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111 Comments on “Avoidable Contact: Do cops really have the need for speed?...”

  • avatar

    Once they put on that badge and holster that gun… they become better than the rest of us. Around here I’ve seen so many cops fire up the blue lights just so they don’t have to wait at red lights.

  • avatar

    3,000 people have died in police chases in the past decade? That’s a very disturbing statistic. (In 2001, one death per day – think about that.) I sure don’t seem to hear about these fatalities too often – what is going on?

    • 0 avatar

      Even more disturbing is over 1/3 of those fatalities had nothing to do with the chase.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah this is the beauty of citing statistics without citing the specifics. What if all 3,000 of these injuries were because the person fleeing the police ran over people or hit their cars? This statistic, in this case, is useless because all it does is put the thought into people’s heads that 3,000 have been killed by police in car chases. Guess what… THAT NUMBER INCLUDES THE OFFICERS WHO SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES IN POLICE CHASES SO THEY COULD PROTECT THE INNOCENT!!

      Police officers are not always correct in their actions, and when they are grossly outside the law, such as the original case this post is about, they should be punished. Otherwise, people need to stop hating on police officers. Even wonder why NOONE who has someone breaking into their house while their in bed hates cops? Noone minds a cop when they need them.

      the self-righteous ranters on here should examine themselves, and think “Would I obey ALL the traffic laws ALL the time if I were a police officer?” If you people answer “yes” to that question, you are a LIER

      • 0 avatar

        If someone breaks into your house while you’re in bed, you need a gun and some modicum of competence at running one. Not a police officer, unless the invader is either a snail, or your home happens to be in a police station.

        But who do you think will come harass you if you actually do have enough sense to rely o a gun instead of some Johhny-come-way-too-lately tax feeder when your house is burglared in the middle of the night?

      • 0 avatar

        No, I wouldn’t. As a citizen I don’t obey all the laws all the time. That is however the trouble with cops, power, corruption and placing the people that are meant to protect and serve the citizens of our nation as tax collectors and revenue generators with fast cars, toys that cause bodily injury and/or death, quotas and little expectation to solve actual crimes.

        FYI the reason I have a loss of respect for cops actually has 100% more to do with the handling of CRIMES such as burglaries, hit and run accidents, assaults, etc. than it does with traffic violations.

        While those officers were cops and they did serve their communities in their careers it makes them no more deserving of creating unsafe situations nor no more valuable than the other members of society that innocently lost their lives in these accidents.

        If you stop chasing someone, guess what in most cases they stop running. In most high speed cases all the cop needs to get is a visual on the suspect and the license plate number, from there cameras, patrols, helicopters, and other methods of apprehension work fine. There is a good reason many places are going to a “no pursuit” decision on high speed encounters and that is because a wreck where innocent people die isn’t a fitting conclusion to a auto theft and serves NO ONE’s BEST INTEREST.

        You are correct cops are people and when put under stimulus (such as racing or chasing speeders or driving to a crime scene) their bodies create the exact same chemicals, namely adrenaline, as everyone else and that does impact judgement and lead to mistakes and decisions that deviate from standard.

      • 0 avatar

        We havent lost that many engineers clearing the roads of Iraq and Afghanistan of IEDs, which I believe to be slightly more dangerous than clearing the roads of America of speeders.

  • avatar

    You’ve hit on a very important and frustrating topic here JB. There was a similar incident that occurred a few years ago here in Indianapolis where an intoxicated officer hit and killed a motorcyclist. You can read about it here:

    While making others aware of abuse of power by police, and even proposing alternatives as you have done is of some value, are there any MAAPP (Mother’s Against Abuse of Police Power) organizations out there that are actively lobbying for reform?

    If so, I’d like to know. An organized voice would be much more effective in encouraging change.

  • avatar

    This is just a symptom of a bigger problem. As James2 said, cops, and even lessor government workers, are ‘deemed’ to be better, smarter, and more worthy than we ordinary [s]citizens[/s]subjects of the Crown are (although we seemingly rejected the Crown 236 years ago). Not only are they often above the law, but benefit from an entirely different set of laws to protect them.
    Not to mention that they often serve and protect one another rather than the public.
    I am not condemning all police- there are many who do their job for the good of the public, but the trend is going toward a police state, especially on the Federal level, with militarized police at all levels. This is not the America that I grew up in, where the police and the citizens had mutual respect for one another.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. Just had a discussion with an older veteran on Saturday along the same lines. He said he didn’t recognize this country and said it all started with the welfare state LBJ created in the 60s. I probably won’t be able to recognize this ‘version’ of our country in fifty years either.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. The militarization of law enforcement, and that Us vs. Them attitude is more of a problem than anything else. They–and all government employees–need to be reminded that they are public servants. The only reason they are above the law is that we permit it.

      I think it used to be you could almost automatically assume that a police officer who approached you was working under the law, for the best interest of the public. That is sadly no longer the case. Nowadays you have to assume the worst, and act accordingly. Which really is too bad.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. I live in a neighborhood near Washington DC. I guesstimate some 80% of the people who live here are either government apparatchiks or work for Beltway Bandits. Their sense of superiority in palpable. They routinely break speed limits in the neighborhood and run stop signs. When I asked one guy why he drove like an idiot, his reply was “I need to get to the Fort to protect this country”.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, my husband and I were talking last night about how many crimes in our city go unsolved when there is clearly enough information for a detective to actually solve something and you wait 5 days for a detective here after a burglary. However I requested removal of trash from a public sidewalk and there was actually a trash detective assigned and on the case within 24 hours.

      I no longer call cops here cops, they are fund raisers and that is pretty well the extent of their job description and duties. I think it is a mix of cops that shouldn’t make the cut for that line of work, the respect for the job and bureaucracy of working in that job that harms cops who become cops really to “protect and serve” and currently very much our cities, counties and states trying to increase revenues which tickets do nicely for.

      I grew up and had that respect for cops and it is sad to loose it. It is also very scary to imagine that these are the people that are moving to regulate the country in a militarized state type setting as not only are there very clear lapses in the mental capacity to do that as seen in this video and millions of police video where the cop clearly makes the wrong call and fails to control or handle the situation effectively, but also (at least locally for me) there are clear deficiencies in the physical ability to do that. I honestly think that the cops in our area are using their tazzers on people because they are scared if they don’t drop them quick that there is no way they can run to catch up and no desire to.

  • avatar

    “In the long run, an OnStar-style system of GPS-based speed management could be used to ensure that police (and, come to think of it, any other person who suckles from the teat of public employment) adhere to the speed limit at all times. This is the only fair system.”

    I do agree that the police are often over zealous when pursuing speeders, but this is not the answer.

    Emergency vehicles are equipped with sirens and lights, which they are supposed to use to warn others on the road of their approach.

    Had this accident with the Mazda involved a Milford fire truck going down the road over 40MPH, but with its sirens and lights on, would this editorial have been written?

    • 0 avatar

      The Mazda’s driver would have seen the lights and heard the sirens from a good distance away, and would have likely waited to make the turn.

    • 0 avatar

      When I volunteered as a firefighter, the (enforced) policy was: Speed limit unless confirmed entrapment or cardiac arrest. Something similar would work for cops: speed limit unless…

      • 0 avatar

        This is an interesting point: I rarely, if ever, see paramedics or firefighters exceed the speed limit significantly. I see the police do it far, far more often.

        Anecdotal, I know, but it tells you a little bit about the culture.

    • 0 avatar

      It would be a simple thing to have the governor deactivate when the lights/siren are on.

      • 0 avatar

        Gold star for you sir! I do believe that right there would be a dandy solution:

        1) Require all public/government vehicles to be governed to the local speed limit. (This could even be tied, via gps, to the specific speed limit of the road that the car is travelling on.)

        2) On emergency vehicles only, allow that governor to be mitigated if and only if full emergency lights and sirens are activated.

        3) Log all such activations, for future reference.

        Brilliant! (Jack – did you catch this one? Get Scotta medal or scotch, quick!)

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, this. A governor which deactivates only when sirens and lights are active seems perfectly reasonable.

        And if we want to talk about accountability…

        I know of at least one car insurance company which has offered a device for parents to attach to the ODBII port of junior’s car which would report whenever their snowflake exceeded a preset speed or radius from home.

        How about a similar setup which would log when a police vehicle exceeded a particular speed and post it to a website for the community to see? Knowing that a particular squad car was routinely doing 15 over while in town without justification might change some opinions.

    • 0 avatar

      Many towns in CT have speed limits on fire trucks some as low as 25 mph. One town even limited fire truck use to 40mph and emergency only. They actually have to have the truck towed for basic service. This happened after a accident about ten years ago.

  • avatar

    Great article. Never thought about it like that.

  • avatar

    Here’s two possible solutions. One, have the cop that lasers your speeding a** also take your picture, then just send you the ticket without bothering to chase you unless you’re going so fast your’re truly endangering lives. And then arrest you. Two, when autonomous cars get on the roads, they’ll just clog the middle lane going the posted speed limit, forcing human drivers to clog the passing lane. Result? Instant cluster.

    • 0 avatar

      Luckily I don’t think anyone would buy an Autonomous car that couldn’t be driven manually. People just wouldn’t because then there car isn’t really personal anymore. But yeah, a lot more people with autopilot on, not caring about traffic conditions and how they are creating bottlenecks.

  • avatar

    The US could just adopt autobahns and more difficult liscences, No more need to worry about speed limits on the highway.

    • 0 avatar

      More thorough mechanical inspections would be necessary as well. Many people keep their cars in a pretty scary state of repair, and an increasing fleet age doesn’t help.

      This might fall under your “adopt autobahns” comment, but better roads are also necessary.

    • 0 avatar

      While autobahns and better licenses are good, they would not eliminate the example situation. The teenagers were driving on what appears to be a normal city street in a shopping area. They were not expecting a vehicle driving at nearly twice the speed limit with no warning (lights//siren) driving into their turn. This was a policeman mistake pure and simple.
      Policemen need acceleration not necessarily top speed. In the past it was difficult to do this type of control, but with modern computer controls this is easily accomplished.

    • 0 avatar

      Autobahns are not realistic in the U.S. Autobahns in Europe are poured twice as thick as typical interstate roads in the U.S. and when they develop problems the entire section of road is replaced and not just patched. They were also designed from the outset to be high-speed roadways, unlike most U.S. interstates that were designed for 65-70mph max. We already can’t get the money to patch and replace our existing crappy roads and bridges, there is no way we could upgrade our interstates to meet Autobahn standards.

      More difficult licensing would also require a cultural change away from most Americans attitude that driving is a “right” and not a privilege.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Set the speed limits high enough and there are relatively few speeders to chase. Rural sections of I-10 and I-20 don’t get that much freeze/thaw damage and there’s a section in West Texas with 80 mph speed limits. Texas state law would allow the speed limit to be increased to 85 mph if a safety study supports the increase.

        There are lots of 75 mph roads in the Great Plains and mountain time zone.

        The Dallas North Tollway and President George Bush Turnpike have a 70 mph speed limit inside the Dallas suburbs on concrete built with less than German precision. I don’t see many drivers getting tickets.

      • 0 avatar

        I dunno – I’ve seen some pretty small “sections” of the Autobahns in Germany being replaced… look like patches to me. With that said, they usually impose a 130Km/hr limit on repaired roads.

        Hey, that’s like 81MPH. I think even our “inferior” (and our 65MPH roads around AZ are in no way inferior to any stretch of Autobahn – see the LP640 that was able to reach 219MPH on the stretch of AZ-202 in the East Valley) roads in the US can handle an 80-85MPH limit. Don’t you?

      • 0 avatar

        Nah. In most of Europe, the autoroute speed limit is 130 kmh in non urban areas — about 80mph — not significantly different than in the U.S.. In urban areas and in the rain, the speed limits are lower (110 kmh) than in the U.S. It certainly wouldn’t be dangerous to drive on U.S. expressways at 130 or 140 kmh because of road conditions. I’ve spent quite a bit of time driving on European autoroutes. The experience is pretty much indistinguishable from expressway driving in the U.S.

      • 0 avatar

        I completely agree with your thought, but with the way we allocate money in the US it actually kind of would reason that our government would continue to ignore our crumbling infrastructures like roads, bridges, and highways and build a fancy Autobahn.

        I live in a residential area that is being highly developed. We had a stop light placed at one of the main intersections in the neighborhoods where both roads are level with no visibility issues and one is a 35 MPH and one is a 40 MPH which was previously the stopping traffic. Accompanying the sign are three good size signs sign explaining how the revitalize America funding Obama passed was what gave us this. About a mile away the 35 MPH road goes up to 45 MPH and intersects with a cross street of 50 MPH on a hill with a curve that intersection only has the crosses families have placed because of loved ones dying there… it is great to revitalize America, but maybe doing it effectively and in places accidents happen more often and with greater casualty would serve the purpose of the people… unfortunately that is not developed so there is not as much foot traffic and probably less daily traffic as it affords one of the options of leaving the development rather than being within it.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    its all part of the intimidation game they play, one time I got pulled over for a very minor traffic offense (got a warning) but when I got pulled over he did so very fast and right at my bumper, I thought I was gonna get hit.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      In the late 90s a friend of mine was pulled over for speeding in his mid 80s Dodge Diplomat by a rural Ohio county sheriffs deputy. My friends car was painted black and had Cuyahoga county plates (most people know it as the county that contains Cleveland, OH). The cop approached the car with a partner and both of them had guns drawn. In broad daylight. The cars windows were not tinted.

    • 0 avatar

      “Intimidation game”? No kidding.

      Once when I was a teenager, I got pulled over for “illegal lighting” and had a total of 5 police cruisers show up and ended up on the hood of my car getting searched.

      Or there’s the time I flashed my lights to alert oncoming motorists to tax collectors in police uniforms, got pulled over by a Statie, cursed at, and given a repair order for “non-functioning headlights.”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I recall while I was in college, one of the town cops in a small little town near where I grew up managed to kill somebody while wrecking his cruiser. Flying through a residential neighborhood at around 70 mph with lights on but no siren. IIRC very little punishment was given.

  • avatar

    The answer to “Who Will Watch The Watchers?” begins with some kind of eventual accountability for LEOs.

    Then, it simply becomes an issue of a Biological-system as opposed to a Hierarchical-system; [not to the Stalinist extent, but] Everyone Watches Everyone Else.

    (+and neither Maryland a**hole staties nor any other LEO gets to pull over and arrest anyone for filming/photoing/videoing anything, because the Citizen component of LE, is accepted, respected and protected.)

    … but you have to start firing + jailing cops first; start making examples; real penalties for the crimes, etc.

  • avatar

    I’ve long believed that policing should be more like the military, with a combination of career and short-term members of the force. It would do much to break up the cliques.

    Many people who would never spend a full career in policing would spend 3 to 5 years in exchange for student loan forgiveness, college scholarships, or preference in getting a private-sector or different government job.

    While I never would have been a career police officer, a term program would have been appealing.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a very interesting idea.

      Something is definitely wrong in a lot of police depts, and who gets to join the force is definitely an issue worth some attention.

    • 0 avatar
      Ed Strasburg

      Fortunately, I live in a place where the police still treat the citizens with respect, and if you feel you have an issue with an officer, you can file a complaint and be taken SERIOUSLY, though I’ve never had to.
      While I live in a municipality that is quite pro-active in this respect, including coming to complete stops at intersections even when they’re in code (lights and sirens) and they have a green light, and they have given up on pursuits altogether, I have to say that I’m in agreement with your idea, Patrick! It is actually a quite intriguing one, at that.

  • avatar

    Giving aggressive young men V8 powered company cars with full insurance and a near total exemption from traffic laws. What could possibly go wrong?

    Having the highway tax administered by people who consistently and conspicuously do exactly what they’re stealing $200 from you for really chafes.

  • avatar

    @me: That and mandatory, repeated Psych-Screening to find and discard the Megalomaniacs, Sociopaths, and general Psychos.

  • avatar

    My problem with the notion that police shouldn’t speed to home invasions is that when there’s a home invasion, police speeding to stop it is like an ambulance speeding to the hospital with a very sick person inside. But this is a minor quibble. If car chases are causing more mayhem than they are mitigating, they should be stopped.

  • avatar

    I think cop cars are too big and too powerful. Think how much money the cops would save if their cars were smaller and much more economical. All that money saved could be spent on better police training and pay.
    Also smaller cop cars would lead to a more humble attitude.
    Take away the cruiser bruisers and issue ’em with Chevy Sonic’s.

  • avatar

    I have family in the police, so I am by no means against them, but in this case these officers were unnecessarily reckless and unintentionally murdered -not killed- two innocent people (prob should have been charged with 3rd degree murder, although this is seldom used around here). As usual the ‘old fix is in’ and one *criminal* is not charged and the other is passing go to collect his $200 and a possibly get out of jail free card. I’m sure there were high emotions on all sides and I understand the local authorities do have a legitimate loyalty to each other, but it can only go so far… you can overlook alot but not human life you’re sworn to protect. Both of these officers should be jailed for twenty to thirty years with no parole. Send a fricking message to other hot shots… there are marines in court-martial right now for speaking their views on their Commander-in-Chief, and others on trial for refusing orders based on political grounds. The military holds its members more accountable than the average citizen, and punishments are more severe. Why should the police (local & state) not be held to the law of the plebians, let alone a higher standard such as their military counterparts?

  • avatar

    Agreed. At the end of the day, this comes down to the cops involved, not the cars, not the rules. The rules were broken. Nowhere on the planet are cops allowed to race each other on public roads, and their fellow cops should not be trying to protect them just because they wear the same uniform. But that mentality does indeed exist in the military, too.

    There are many localities that forbid emergency vehicles from breaking traffic laws except when their lights are on. You don’t want fire trucks to take it slow getting to your burning house, but you do want them to get there. An accident would slow them down considerably.

    You do want cops to get where they need to go in emergencies posthaste and indeed they’re expected to be better drivers than anyone else. They might not all be expert shots, but they certainly are trained to handle firearms and are expected to be better than civilians at it. They are not, however, NASCAR drivers or Navy SEALs.

    The pressure from localities to write more tickets to generate more revenue is another problem. Letting cops write tickets for actual safety risks rather than revenue collection leads to more rational use of resources. Think street cop busting someone for a red light versus the highway patrol dude with his laser toy.

    Putting governors on cop cars is certainly NOT the answer. Putting governors (as in better training) in cops’ heads is.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with the general sentiment – other than to say that I’ve outshot nearly every cop I’ve ever met. Most non-enthusiast cops can’t shoot better than Grandma… and their qualification is a joke.

  • avatar

    What SHOULD prevent a LEO from committing vehicular homicide is the same thing that tends to disuade civilians from racing down a street in broad dailight and risking their fellow citiziens-which is getting your a** thrown in the appropriate state correctional facility next to bubba for a long long time. Perhaps LEO’s should have additional punishment because of all the people in town/county they should know better. Of course, as the introduction to this article implies, the local justice system will drag their feet and CYA rather than dropping the hammer on these fools.

    • 0 avatar

      “What SHOULD prevent a LEO from committing vehicular homicide… is getting your a** thrown in the appropriate state correctional facility next to bubba for a long long time”

      What dissuades me is the fact that I am not a sociopath and do not wish to kill anyone. I would not drive like “officer” Anderson if I was rushing someone to the hospital.

  • avatar

    Experience has taught me to stay well away from cop cars. You never know for sure if some hotdogging cowboy is behind the wheel, and odds are that any encounter you have won’t be a good one.

    One memorable occasion involved four speeding cruisers on a sultry summer evening in a crowded entertainment district. They approached an intersection from different directions at an easy 60 MPH and tried to make a tight corner. The first three skidded, fishtailed all over and barely made it, but the fourth car went out of control and wiped out into a phone pole. If I had crossed that intersection, I’d have been in the middle of it all. Yikes! It was a miracle that no one else was hit or killed.

    On another day, I spotted a friend sporting a new full leg cast. I asked him about it, and he told me that he’d been t-boned by a cop. A detective car, no siren or lights, and the cop had run a red light. There was an eyewitness who said they’d back my friend up if need be and gave him his card. Lo and behold, a few days later, the witness mysteriously backed out and my friend ended up with a ticket for running the light to go with his broken hip and trashed car.

    I make an honest effort to maintain a neutral opinion when it comes to cops, but when I see one driving a car they register as a genuine hazard, right up there with cellphone-gabbing soccer moms in SUVs, boy racers in clapped out Civics and little kids chasing their beach balls out onto the street. Beware!

  • avatar

    This piece is really misleading. About two-thirds of the deaths in police chases are occupants of the fleeing vehicle. Only about 1% of the fatalities are the cops themselves. The rest are innocent bystanders, who I presume are usually hit by the fleeing vehicle.

    A lot of the fleeing drivers who are involved with these fatals are unlicensed, which correlates strongly with higher crash rates. They are also often DUI or using substances. These people were already hazards, and may have crashed, anyway.

    According to this NHTSA report, high speed chases were a factor in only 13% of the crashes in which LEOs were killed. In 61% of the cases, the police vehicles were not in emergency use at the time of the crash.

  • avatar

    Good God. This is like reading the comments section of the Huffington Post.

    2 things:

    1. Speed does NOT kill. See Richard Hammond for more info.

    2. How many of you armchair emergency workers have actually piloted and emergency vehicle code 3?

    I have driven ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars code 3. CRASHES/near misses are are FAR MORE a result of other drivers who are playing with their MyFord Touchy systems and jaw jacking on the phone basically NOT PAYING ATTENTION.

    But yeah…lets blame the people that drive more in a day than most of you do in a week.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey we appreciate what you do… but the article involves police STREET RACING with one another and driving right into a couple of kids driving in a law abiding manner. In that context, we most certainly do blame the people that drive more in a day than we do in a week.

    • 0 avatar

      Using that line of reasoning, Fedex and UPS drivers should be given free reign since they spend 40+ hours a week doing nothing but driving.
      Bottom line, cops are supposedly allowed to do this kind of BS because they’re “trained professionals.” Of course that lasts right up to the minute they screw up and then it’s “they were caught up in the moment, they’re only human, give them a break.” Well sorry you can’t have it both ways. You want extraordinary powers then accept the responsibility that goes along with it. Throw their asses in jail. That’s what would happen to any of us, or can I just take a few high performance driving courses and start using the public roads as my race track?

  • avatar

    While I agree that cops way too often has an a-hole attitude and treat the public like $hit, that behavior has nothing to do with the fact they are paid with public dollars. What it has everything to do with is the fact that they get to play by different rules. They don’t have to worry about what you and I have to worry about (the same can be said about the tippy top of the economic pyramid in the US…they have their own rules to play by at the expense of everybody else). If cops would just treat people with a little respect and were viewed as law enforcement professionals instead of revenue generators, I think much of the animosity would dissipate. By the way, my friend is a cop in Dade county, Florida. When “no chase” rules are in effect, the scum of society quickly figures this out and they no longer fear the police. They just run knowing that the cops can’t follow. So, for things like robbery, assault, rape, etc. eliminating chases would create a feeding frenzy for the trash of society.

  • avatar

    There’s no question that speed increases danger: reaction times are shorter, collisions deadlier. Still, not all risks are reckless, and most speeding tickets–especially those issued by speed traps–do not involve reckless speeds.

    It’s not that hard to set a speed trap so cops can flag down speeders without chasing anyone. Law-abiding speeders stop when that happens. Those that don’t … might be worth chasing. Maybe.

    But pursuits are far riskier than speeding. Speeding is regular driving, only faster. Pursuit involves speed, but also violent maneuvers that an ordinary speeder never dreams of.

    It’s not just about the cop, either: it’s also about the guy he’s chasing. The cop car might be in great condition, the cop sober and pursuit-trained. But what does the cop know about the target? Is he sober, or even mentally stable? Are his tires bald? Will the pursuit slow him down, or speed him up?

    The flight/fight response is part of human nature: when a chase starts, rational thinking ends. Once in a pursuit, will the suspect have the control to back off if necessary? Will the cop?

    The benefit of (possibly) recovering a stolen car, or apprehending a driver with warrants, must be balanced against the risk to bystanders, law enforcement, even suspects and their passengers.

    Cops don’t have blanket authority to fire their guns in foot pursuits. Chases should not be SOP, either. When justified, they should be controlled by supervisors, from a desk.

    But none of this is relevant to this case (and far too many others). This case is not about speeding, or the legitimacy of high-speed pursuits. It’s a homicide. This is speeding to the point of recklessness, and for no legitimate law-enforcement purpose.

    These are cops breaking laws because they can. Criminals, in other words, who should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, along with anyone who helps keep up the “blue wall.”

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the problem with Jack’s comment about endangering others to get to a home invation: risk is the product of probability and severity. Not responding to a crime in progress is a near 100% probability of a high severity event. Speeding with lights & taking precautions at intersections to get there should not increase the probability or risk to others nearly as much. If a cop does not follow such precautions when responding, he should be taken off the road because he *does* increase risk to others too much.

  • avatar

    Cops behaving badly are far more common than most people realize, only because the vast majority of cases are swept under the rug and never see the light of day.

    Here’s a case where a cop was actually indicted for killing someone in a car wreck. While on duty, the cop wrecked a Dodge Viper, while racing said Viper on a public highway, resulting in the death of his passenger. The only reason he was indicted was because his passenger was also a cop.

  • avatar

    Before I was born, my father considered pursuing a police career, with the dream of joining the Pennsylvania State Police as a patrolman. He missed out because of an age limit or something which amounted to a few days.

    He went on to have peaceful careers in construction, machining, and technical writing.

    Later in life, he often said that becoming a pursuit cop would probably have resulted in the early death of himself or others due to his youthful recklessness, either with a gun or a car. As his son, I’m glad he chose differently, but I’m also thankful for those who bravely choose such a career and carry it out with dignity.

    Unfortunately for the men in this story, they’ll have to live with their indiscretion forever – a very heavy burden for everyone involved. That the system protects them differently from others just makes it worse.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Now you did it Baruth. Watch for the black ops helicopter tomorrow.

    Many moons ago, for a brief (3 year) period, I was a cop. Emergency circumstance driving scared the living shit out of me because drivers are so unpredictable. I can only imagine these days with cells, ipods and other distractions.

    Twenty years ago I was t-boned by a detective as he ran a red light. He was tired and coming off duty. Suspiciously, no ticket was issued…

    On the other hand, I’ve been stopped maybe 10 times over the past 20 years. Only once did I get a ticket (and actually that one time I wasn’t at least partially wrong). Otherwise the officers have been nothing but professional with me.

    I find the “cooperative citizen” approach works best – indicate your intention to pull over at the first safe opportunity, put your car in park, lower the windows so he/she can see in safely, and put your hands on top of the dash. Turn off the radio, and quiet passengers down. I always tell them my intended moves, like to the glove box or console for requested documentation. I also flat-out state if I have a weapon in the vehicle and where I keep it (hey, it’s Texas. Who doesn’t have one?).

    Just yesterday I was tooling down the highway in the 2nd from right lane when I hear a “whoop whoop” from two lanes to my left – I was slowly overtaking a motorcycle unit, with Johnny Law staring me down. He won.

    Meanwhile, the embedded video is horrendous. That was my old stomping grounds before my relocation many years ago….there is no excuse whatsoever for the officer in the crash not to spend at least 30 years in prison.

  • avatar

    My favorite is when police tailgate you so close that you can’t even see their headlights in the rear view. Trying to get you to speed up, even when you’re going right at the speed limit.

    • 0 avatar

      Every time that happens to me I’m so tempted to slam on the handbrake. In most states the rear ender is automatically at fault since he didn’t provide enough space for conditions.

      • 0 avatar

        If you did that to a cop, you would be arrested….or worse. Even if you were stopped at a red light minding your own business, and a drunk cop crashed into the back of your car, YOU would be the one summonsed.

        As for rear end collisions, the courts have repeatedly ruled, “The mere happening of a rear end collision does not prove negligence.”

      • 0 avatar

        Notice the cop’s legs hanging out the back of the convetible in the linked pic. The cop apparently lied after rear-ending the convertible and landed in the back seat (The cop’s video recorder mysteriously wasn’t operating at the time?)

    • 0 avatar

      I brake test them. Seriously. If they hit you, then they are following too closely. “A squirrel ran into the road…”

      I also sometimes take my foot off the accelerator and coast down to 10mph under the speed limit. Irritates, them, but seriously, don’t tailgate me.

  • avatar

    The other cop racing apparently got suspended for a month.

  • avatar

    This isolated incident seems to have been caused by reckless driving, poor judgement and lacking driving skills (slamming the brakes and not turning left?) Had the cop been observing the road ahead properly, and reacted correctly he could have avoided the crash, or at least hit the rear quarter of the Mazda and the teens could have survived. ( it’s hard too see if they used their indicator when turning, but easy to see that the cops brake lights)
    In Norway, with stricter speed limits and tougher license training, the police can even get prosecuted even if the criminals kill themselves in a chase, and they aren’t allowed to continue a chase if there’s a risk of innocent peoples lives (including the chased driver.)
    In a case like this example the killer would be charged with manslaughter and never work as a cop again.

  • avatar

    If I was the father of one of those kids, I’d have found the cop and and run him over myself.

  • avatar

    Two points:

    1. The comment of “safe for the conditions” implies there is a point when it is no longer safe. Obviously, you should stay below that limit at all times. However, it isn’t a limit with a clear cut-off like a bridge collapsing. I see two important characteristics: It is an ever-increasing probability of failure (e.g., all else being equal, there may be a 1% chance of a crash at 40 mpg & a 3% chance at 50 mph) without a determinate point where it jumps, and the risk depends on every car-driver-conditions combination–the weather, the car’s equipment (headlights, brakes, etc.) as well as the driver’s skill & familiarity with the road all affect the probability of an incident, and thus the safe speed. If we assume that it is desirable to enforce a safe speed, it becomes obvious that it is virtually impossible to quantify those factors and is completely impractical to enforce different car-driver-conditions combinations.

    2. Bridges are rated for a certain weight (safe limit) so that they don’t collapse. However, the posted limit is far below the actual limit. This is because no matter what, you need to stay below the limit, so a factor of safety is introduced. The greater control you have over the environment, traffic, maintenance, etc., the less this factor of safety needs to be. I don’t think we have a whole lot of control over such things on roads: weather & visibility, wildlife, & (other drivers’) vehicle maintenance are all things that can’t do much about, which implies that a larger factor of safety is needed more often than not.

    In other words, a road may be perfectly fine for driving 100 mph … in the day, when no one else is on it, and the deer aren’t out, and your car has upgraded brakes, you’ve had plenty of high-speed training, & so on (i.e., “professional driver, closed course”). That same road could be unsafe at 40 mph for an average Joe when it’s raining & there’s traffic. Thus, I conclude that speed limits are generally reasonable and not excessively low. I prefer inconvenience to risk.

  • avatar

    Lesson: always yield to oncoming traffic when making a turn. Especially at nifght when headlights are coming at you.

    You can see the kids tried to cut the turn short. I’ve seen the results of a Saturn L-series that tyrned in front of an 18-wheeler on a 50 mph posted, four undivided highway. They turned right in front of the truck and lived. But you can tell they didn’t even look!

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Wow, you guys live in jurisdictions where cops actually debate whether or not to speed to home invasions? Around here, because of “budget constraints” they don’t even take reports involving property crimes.

    Yet their Marijuana black market management duties are undiminished with fully-funded and manned and militarized Specialty Elite SWAT units, and their Revenue Collection units similarly unaffected.

    I was driving down the freeway once when four or five state troopers swooped down and waved down four or five speeding motorists EACH, in a beautifully synchonized ballet of unconstrained fascist power.

    Long strings of bewildered soccer moms in mini-vans with toddlers sucking on pacifiers and the like.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you live in Baltimore City? Cause that’s the deal down here too. If its not homicide or attempted homicide, they won’t even bother coming out. So when your car gets broken into you stop even calling it in. Makes you feel real grateful when deputy double-glaze pulls you over for doing 38 in a 30.

  • avatar

    There’s a Sun Sentinel series I read awhile back about Speeding Cops: They kill, and get away with it in most cases. I feel that if anything, police officers should face harsher penalties than ordinary citizens for any illegal activities.

  • avatar

    In the ten year period between 2000- 2009 there were 411,754 traffic fatalities in the United States. Giving Jack full credit for the “3,000” killed over the last decade as reported by NHTSA, that works out to a police officer involved fatality rate of 0.007289%.

    Using the specific example of 2001 that Jack quoted above, there were 37,862 fatalities. Again, giving Jack full credit for the “365 killed” in police chases that year, you get a police officer involved fatality rate of 0.009640%. If you only count the 140 truly innocent victims, the rate falls to 0.003697%.

    Of course a story about how, if you are destined to die in a vehicle accident, the accident is 99.992711% likely to NOT involve the police doesn’t stir up the civil libertardians and generate comments.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s actually about 0.7%, or 7 chase-related fatalities per thousand “regular” traffic fatalities. It’s a small number in one sense, I suppose, but that’s not much comfort to someone who gets killed or seriously injured in one of those chases.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Come on, Duke Boy! If I had really wanted to stir people up, I would have written that


      and I wouldn’t be far off, would I? :)

      • 0 avatar

        I did a research paper back when “street racing” was in the news. It was picked up by several print papers and just about every enthusiast forum.

        At any rate, using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System database (FARS), stats showed that police officers killed 4 times as many people in car accidents than street racers did.

        That’s a fact.

  • avatar

    Articles like this are good reminders that, as a civilization, we’re not much more than 50 years away from when “police work” almost entirely consisted of deciding who you thought done the crime, and beating them until they confess.

    In some places, and in some ways (speeding for the f$ck of it) we’re not as far from those days as we’d like to think we were.

  • avatar

    I want to point out that in Canada, the state of policing is not much different. At least where I live, in Alberta. Photo radar and red light cameras are everywhere, especially after speed limit changes. Cops use laser all over the place. And they similarly abuse their powers. I know of one young cop who has become jaded and is thinking of changing careers. The one time I was pulled over for speeding was in an artificially-low speed limit zone. Obvious money grab. The prosecutor I dealt with basically admitted everyone speeds, this was just my time to get jacked up.

    There are many examples. I won’t name specific examples, but the cops often investigate themselves when something happens, and will get someone else thrown in jail for their own incompetence. Ok, the one I’m thinking of is the Mayerthorpe police deaths, where the guy put away is a simple-minded guy with fetal alcohol syndrome, who was jailed because he should have known better than to drive the killer home the day of the shootings, or something like that.

    Policing up here is no different from in the US.

  • avatar

    I read about this soooo long ago, it’s taken this long to get to court? Must be nice being a super citizen.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    “If its not homicide or attempted homicide, they won’t even bother coming out.”

    They WILL come out on marijuana calls, quicker I would say than to a homicide. And if you try to defend yourself or your property because the cops won’t take reports on property crimes, why they will gladly come out and shoot YOU. Just happened here about a year ago…..cop was sitting in business owner’s (a part-time preacher, incidently) parking lot in an unmarked car (deception is a key component when you are are at war with the indigs). But business owner came out with an empty gun to see whether it was another burglar that he needed to scare away, since cops won’t even answer his calls anymore. By the time it was over, cop made preacher get on his knees and proceeded to shoot him down in cold blood.

    Bingo! No more property crime reports.

  • avatar

    Just heard the two guy driving the Mazda was DUI….can anyone confirm this? Yes, it was from a cop…they stick together.

    • 0 avatar

      A couple years ago, the San Diego Christmas ‘Parade of Lights’ boat parade was diminished by a Coast Guard boat crashing into a docked boat and killing a little boy that was aboard. One of the first media reports from the Coast Guard was that they’d be testing everyone aboard the boat that was hit to see if anyone was drunk. They were looking to blame people on a boat tied to a dock that were watching a parade…

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    Quite frankly, given the increasing numbers of police brutality seen on youtube and elsewhere (mostly here in the states), and given this scenario (which plays out way too often), and given the fact that the police/politicians/courts all seem to think ‘they’ have rights the rest of us do not… I’m going to make a suggestion for the future for the next generation (in hopes that there is one, and that they have the freedom to hit the ‘reset button’ in our prior Republic now fiasco called America).

    Don’t have a police force at all. Most of the job can be done by Emergency Responders attached to the Fire Department. Don’t arm them at all. Instead, allow the sane, adult, willing to carry as they desire, as free men (and women), open carry or hidden….

    Sound impossible? It’s the only way to keep people civil with one another. If you don’t know whether the person you are committing road rage against is armed or not – you might actually engage brain before accelerator pedal, finger and horn.

    I’d rather be surrounded with people who believe in freedom – and are adult enough to handle it – rather than uniformed bullies with guns and an attitude who believe themselves to be above The Law.

    What about you?

    Of course, we’ll have to wait for this entire system to collapse before any such thing can be accomplished. It may not be much of a wait, given our government’s out of control debts and spending…

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Something has to give. With many cities facing imminent bankruptcy, the massive explosion of the number of police, all driving around aimlessly in gas-guzzling vehicles doing nothing that remotely resembles “public safety,” and accruing massive unfunded pensions and legacy costs, over-filling the creaky prison sentence with non-violent drug offenders (more people per capital in prison that China, Iran or North Korea). Our present Police State is unsustainable. No amount of revenue collection by traffic cops is going to fix this arterial spray of fiscal trauma.

    California is the bellweather for this disaster: Sacramento about to go under due to Police pension costs, the prison system reaching a critical tipping point of fatal fiscal hemorrhage, being FORCED to legalize marijuana, with a violent drug war just over the south border that is creating an inevitable dark, disutopian future. Of running tank battles in the center of vaporized inner cities between the cops and the drug chieftains.

    That we have created this pampered and pelfed entitled group of “Super Citizens” above the law and completely out of control is an obscenity against the Constitution and our founding principals.

  • avatar

    Here in MA, the state police regularly travel well in excess of the speed limit. And the locals seem to be dead set against using the siren, even at high speeds on local roads. Maybe they are concerned about noise pollution???????????

  • avatar

    Speaking of home invasions- most home invasions are committed by the SWAT-team equipped men in blue- state, local, or federal. Who can you call to prevent THAT ?
    And as for the U.S. Constitution- the government has been ignoring THAT for decades.

  • avatar

    Do cops really have the need for speed? Only if they’re going after dangerous criminals.

  • avatar
    Diesel Fuel Only

    Going into a certain state along a rural highway I encountered one trooper or sheriff’s car after another. One of them was just leaving his spot when I went by so he had to follow me.

    I went 1 mph below the speed limit there and in the little town we went through and in the rather long construction zone that followed.

    Of course, there wasn’t any construction going on at the time and the road surface was no worse than any of the other around there, but it still had a ridiculously low speed limit – might have been 35. I set the cruise at 34 MPH and we motored along for miles, just the two of us, through the countryside until he got fed up with me and floored it hard – an obvious loss of self control on his part.

  • avatar

    Our police force must be bought into the 21st century, kicking and screaming.
    And to an extent, they are.
    When they backslide, we hear all about it.
    We need a better people, this too is happening, ever so slowly.
    Rename them – a peace force…..

  • avatar

    here in Louisville,KY the Metro cops are the worst driving cops ever, they’ve hurt more people than I’ve ever seen in the last 15 years that I’ve been down here,and always break the legal speed limit religously !…upholding the Law my ARSE!

  • avatar

    Hi! I lived in Daytona beach.I saw police chase go down A1A.They had to be going over 100mph.Daytona is a tourist area and many people cross the road to go the beach.Plus the police had a helicopter on him. Well a cop ended getting killed over that chase.He ran right into another car.

    Brigitte Grisanti

  • avatar

    Not to pick on Colorado police unfairly (Columbine??) but how about this?

  • avatar

    Interesting perspective, two cops are behaving badly so you label all of them uniformed criminals, I bet you vote on the left no? My brother is an inner city cop, as a rule he doesn’t pull over anyone doing less than 20 over and then let’s them off with a warning if they have a valid license. Interestingly he let’s very few off with a warning. The morons that were racing and thoughtlessly killed the two teenagers deserve the worst.
    On the other hand when you left home this morning your mind was at ease that by simply locking your doors your home and everything inside would remain as you left it, weren’t you? Do you realize that outside of western civilizations and south of our border with Mexico, that is never the case?

  • avatar

    Last Sunday evening I drove my brother to the airport. Right before the terminal, where the speed limit goes to a ridiculously slow speed, a city police car came flying up on everyone like he’s going to pull someone over, but with no lights on, and goes around six cars. I drove up to the drop off, and there is the officer giving his wife/girlfriend a hug as he’s just dropping her off.

    I about gave him the finger, but I figured he’d just be waiting for me on the way out. :(

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