COLUMBUS, Ga. — It’s a common occurrence: a police officer stops a car for something simple. But what follows forces everyone to hold on to their steering wheels a little tighter and hope they are out of harm’s way. Some people believe officers should use more discretion deciding when to chase a suspect.
Jose Garcia almost became a casualty in a high-speed chase that ended in his neighbor’s driveway. Garcia believes the officer that chased a super speeder on a motorcycle made a grave mistake.
“People could’ve died over just a guy speeding on his motorcycle,” Garcia said. “I could’ve been killed in that wreck.”
Garcia’s neighbor David New saw the recent graduate tumble into his driveway, as police were chasing a motorcycle racing at 140 mph from I-185 to Double Churches Rd. to Paprika Lane. New thinks unless there’s a murder suspect behind the wheel, chases can wait.
“They don’t need to run people down in the streets over a speeding ticket,” New explained. “That’s basically what it amounts to. I know [law enforcement officers] got to chase some time and for good reason. But when it comes to chasing anybody, high-speed through a residential area, it just needs to stop.”
News 3 spoke with Georgia State Trooper Charles Holloway. Holloway says before an officer engages in a chase, he looks at road conditions, traffic volume, and speed among other factors. Any traffic violation can warrant a law enforcement officer to stop a car, according to the trooper. But it’s what happens after that that determines whether a chase can be initiated. Holloway tells News 3 a chase begins only when the suspect drives away from the initial traffic stop.
“The majority of folks fleeing have done something wrong and they think they can get away,” Holloway said. “The majority of the time, that’s not the case. They flee, they just go to jail tired.”
Holloway has been in more than 100 high-speed chases in eight years. It’s difficult for the trooper to find the words to describe a pursuit.
“There’s no way to describe it,” Holloway said. “It’s an adrenaline rush. Like riding a bull would be the best way to describe the next best thing, because you don’t know what will happen next.”
Law enforcement has a great deal of discretion when it comes to engaging in high-speed chases. Chases can end one of four ways: by an officer terminating a pursuit, roadblocks, tire deflation, and finally, using the PIT Maneuver. The PIT Maneuver is designed to slow down or spin out someone trying to get away from an officer.
The Chattahoochee Valley has had several notable high-speed chases end with injuries or even deadly results. Carver High School baseball coach David Pollard was killed when a suspect collided with him during a high-speed chase last year. Another chase in November started in Columbus, and it ended with a Columbus Police officer shooting a teenager.
Garcia and New support police efforts to keep people safe. However, Garcia believes officers should account for other factors and their actions when it comes to potentially heightening risks for other drivers on the road.
“In this case, no [the risk] wasn’t worth [the reward] at all,” Garcia said.
Meanwhile, Holloway says the main way to cut down on high-speed chases is for folks to obey the laws of the road and remain respectful to law enforcement officers.
“The way to prevent them is for folks not to flee,” Holloway said. “If the blue lights come on, pull over. It’s as simple as that.”
For a full list of Georgia State Patrol’s widely regarded policies and procedures on pursuits, please click here.