Police chases can be dangerous, but sometimes the men and women of law enforcement have no choice but to start a hot pursuit of an alleged criminal fleeing a crime scene or a dangerous driver putting innocent drivers’ lives at risk. But there are rules regarding procedure and liability for police officers, who may hurt or kill innocent bystanders and other drivers on the roadways.
Some people claim that police engage in car chases when it’s not absolutely necessary, and because of law enforcement officers’ poor decisions to chase someone in a car, innocent people are getting seriously injured or killed because of car chases that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
California Injuries/Deaths from Police Chases
How common are police chases resulting in injury or death in California? One study indicates three people were killed and 45 people were injured during 421 pursuits in Los Angeles country from October of 2015 until October of 2016; the study also found that most of the pursuits did not involve serious crimes. An article in the Los Angeles Times indicates that the numbers are much higher.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, police chases in California regularly lead to injuries and deaths, the Times cites a study by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in which approximately 25% of all pursuits end in collisions. In 2016, police pursuits caused 762 injuries and 24 fatalities; on an average day in California, there are 23 police chases.
California state law provides that “law enforcement agencies are immune from liability in injuries and deaths during police chases if they have a written pursuit policy, provide annual training about chases and require that all officers certify in writing that they have read and understood the policy.”
Associate Justice Ming Chin of the California Supreme Court held that under this law as it stands now, law enforcement agencies need not show that every single police officer has met the above named provisions. In other words, a law enforcement agency in the state of California may be immune from liability even if all the police officers of that agency did not comply with all aspects of the policy.
What Prompted This Ruling
Irma Ramirez of Gardena filed suit after her son, 19-year-old Mark Gamar, was killed in 2015 after his truck was hit by a police officer involved in a car chase. During the chase, a law enforcement officer performed a pursuit intervention technique, known as a PIT maneuver.
Gamar was the passenger in a truck that slammed into a power pole following the PIT maneuver. In this case, a Los Angeles-based court of appeal decided last year that 100% officer certification was not necessary for a police department to retain immunity, and it’s that decision that the Supreme Court of California recently upheld.
100% Police Compliance Not Possible
Law enforcement agencies argue that 100% compliance with the policies and requirements surrounding police car chases is impossible. With some agencies employing thousands of law enforcement personnel, with many officers on some type of leave and others being deployed to the military and unavailable for training, there is no way that 100% of all law enforcement officers can be compliant with vehicle pursuit training requirements.
If you feel your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may have a valid legal claim. Please consult with one of our attorneys. Even law enforcement officers must be held accountable for their actions that result in injuries and deaths.