A recent incident in metro Detroit has left one person in critical condition and highlighted the potential danger of police action on the roadways.
Troopers with the Michigan State Police report that a pedestrian bystander was among three people injured when a patrol SUV attempted to make a traffic stop in Allen Park. The other two were officers with the Dearborn Heights Police Department.
The incident occurred on Monday, January 2, 2017 around 9 p.m. That’s when the two Dearborn Heights officers, traveling east on Van Born Road in a Ford Explorer SUV, attempted to pull over an unidentified vehicle.
As the officers approached the intersection with Pelham Road — where the jurisdictions of Allen Park, Dearborn Heights and Taylor meet — their vehicle made contact with a Lexus ES 350 whose driver had attempted to make a left-hand turn from the westbound lane.
Paramedics arrived and the driver of the Lexus was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition. The driver’s name and age have not been released.
Troopers say the Dearborn Heights officers had to be cut free from the wreckage of the SUV. They were also hospitalized, one officer reportedly suffered multiple broken wrist bones.
Sources report that the officers were attempting to “catch up” to an unidentified third vehicle in order to make a traffic stop. No vehicle description has been released, nor any information on the infraction do the led to the attempted traffic stop.
Michigan State Police have assumed control of the investigation from the Allen Park department.
The incident highlights the dangers of police action on the roadways. According to USA Today, more than 5,000 innocent civilians have died in car chases involving police since 1979.
Some of these police chases taken place at high speeds, along crowded, dangerous streets, and are over minor traffic infractions. Many officers rationalize this by saying that motorists who flee a traffic stop are suspicious, and appear to be guilty of something.
Many departments went away from high-speed chases years ago because the potential danger to public safety is too great, but incidents such as the one in Allen Park suggest something more subtle.
It is unclear whether the police officers were traveling at excessive speeds in order to “catch up,” or whether their lights and sirens were activated at the time of the crash.
Some would argue that public safety can be better served by not pursuing a criminal driver. And many police agencies have established strict policies as to when a pursuit is acceptable.
Policies against police chases also protect the officers, 139 of whom have died in car chases, according to federal records.
Too often, it seems, police chases backfire, result in unintended and often deadly consequences for the public, as well as the law-enforcement community. In doing so, they defeat their very purpose.
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