When is a high speed chase too dangerous?

Published: Jan. 3, 2012 at 10:38 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 9, 2012 at 4:09 PM EST
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It's a question law enforcers are facing again tonight after a deadly weekend crash in Atlanta. The wife of the Atlanta Braves head trainer was killed when a trooper speeding to join a chase slammed into their car at an intersection. Troopers and police say they train regularly to avoid such tragedies.

People in Albany also remember Albany Police Officer Terry Lewis Flemming, who was killed in October in a collision with another police officer's car aiding in the pursuit of armed robbery suspects. Rushing to aid other law enforcers, but safety getting there has to be the first consideration.

Georgia State Patrol officials say Trooper First Class Donald Crozier was traveling in downtown Atlanta with lights and siren activated, when at an intersection his cruiser collided with an SUV driven by Jeff Porter. One of his three passengers, Kathy Porter, was killed.

The trooper was attempting to aid another trooper trying to stop a motorcyclist on Interstate 20.

"The Georgia State Patrol policy is that even though you are in a chase you still have to use due regard at intersections. Even though you have your blue lights and sirens on," said GSP Sgt. First Class Shawn Urquhart.

In October while Albany Police Officers were in pursuit of armed robbery suspects, Officer Terry Lewis Flemming died when her police car collided with another police car. Troopers and Police train extensively to drive with caution in emergency situations.

"We can't help anybody if we don't get there first. We've got to be able to get there to render aid,"  said Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek.

Longtime officers and troopers say the excitement of emergency calls can cause bad judgement- something the Georgia State Patrol trains to keep in check.

"We train at least twice a year on our pursuit policy, where we get refresher courses,"  Urquhart said.

Dougherty County Police have strict policies and training about pursuits and high speed driving, so it is done only when necessary. "We can't just say we will never under any circumstance chase,"  Cheek said.

GSP and Police also are trained to break off pursuits, when lives are at stake. Urquhart said, "If it gets to a point where too many lives are in danger, or going to be at risk, you can call the chase off."

Troopers and police are trained to judge their surroundings during any high speed pursuit or response, like if it's a residential area, the weather conditions, visibility, day or night. A lot for their individual judgement, but a crucial one with lives at stake.

Chief Cheek said good supervision is a crucial part of deciding if a pursuit is necessary, and Georgia State Patrol troopers are required to have a critique session with supervisors after each pursuit.

Trooper Crozier, involved in that fatal Atlanta crash, was once a radio operator in Albany.

Crozier is on administrative leave while investigations are conducted by several agencies including the GSP Specialized Reconstruction Team, the GBI, and the Fulton County District Attorney's Office.

Copyright 2012 WALB.  All rights reserved.