Editorial: High speed police chases

Editorial: High speed police chases

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The innocent bystander who died a short time ago in a high speed-chase in Phenix City, Alabama Was Frank McLemore.

I knew Frank. He was a highly talented and respected broadcast engineer, who worked with a local radio group, for the FCC, and with The Georgia Association of Broadcasters.

His untimely death as a result of a suspect, in a stolen car, fleeing police, is tragic evidence of what can happen when a police pursuit ends in a fatal crash.

According to the International Association of Police Chiefs, 91 percent of all chases result from non-violent crimes. The National Transportation Safety Administration estimates one person dies in that type of crash every day,

And one third of those deaths are innocent drivers, unaware of the drama unfolding on the streets, that will change their lives forever.

Police officers themselves die in pursuits at the rate of about one every six weeks.

We really don't know how many fatalities result from high speed chases because there is no mandate that police must report them to federal record keepers.

We always support the police in apprehending felons and we respect the split second judgement those officers have to make, under highly stressful conditions.

"We do value human life overall, because it could be one of our family members who's in a car that's hit by someone who we're pursuing. Or it could be one of us who hits somebody," said Michael Persley, Albany Chief of Police. "So I mean, it's a heavy thing to, that burden to carry. But we just have to evaluate all the factors, even before we start."

We also support the position of a group called pursuit safety.  They urge limiting police pursuits to only the most violent and dangerous offenders.

According to their research, that criteria would eliminate 9 out of 10 chases, and cut fatalities dramatically, of both suspects and the innocent.

One part of Frank McLemore 's lasting legacy, besides a life well lived, will be to shine a light on the issue of police pursuits chasing a non-violent suspect in the first place.

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