Monday, October 18, 2010

Pursuit...without a police car.

So the other evening--my night off--I'm heading back to my house with a friend of mine who is in town for the night. We'd been out for dinner and as we're driving back on the two-lane highway well outside of town, I see that the vehicle coming head-on in the opposite lane is encroaching over the solid double-yellow line.
"He's over the line," I say as I swerve to the right. But before I can even finish the sentence, there's a loud "WHAM!" as his mirror hits mine. At a combined closing speed of over a hundred miles an hour, this jack-ass who couldn't hold his own lane damn near killed us all. I slow to a stop, but as we look back, we see that the other vehicle--a pick-up truck--isn't stopping. "Oh, no," I say. He is not going to hit and run me. That's NOT happening." I commence to turn around, and my pal tells me that he'll be gone before we can catch up. But this is a long road with no side roads to turn off on, and while it's all hills and curves, it's a road that I know intimately as I drive it every day to and from work. I know this road better than I know our agency's pursuit track, and I can run this road.

As my pal dials the local law enforcement agency via his cell phone, I manage to make up enough lost ground to come up behind what we think is the striking vehicle caught behind a couple of slower vehicles ahead of him. Sure enough--it's an older full-sized pick-up and what's left of it's driver's mirror is hanging.

My initial plan is just to stick with him until he gets back into town where the local law guys can intercept him, but when we get to an intersection, he messes that up by trying to turn left onto a road that will take him well away from where help is on the way to us from. So I pull left of the center line, pass him, and cut him off. As I stop, my dashing pal is already out of my vehicle and getting ready to snatch this miscreant out of his. But the hit-and-run driver has other ideas and he throws his truck into reverse, backs down the highway past several other cars, then three-points it and heads back the way that he came. And we're off after him again.

Back down the highway we go, his old pick-up moving so slow compared to my vehicle that this hardly counts as a chase. The local law has been advised of the change in direction, the tag number of the offender, and the fact that the two occupants of the pursuing vehicle are, in fact, off-duty police officers.

We roll on behind this truck, and the pursuit is about ten miles old and approaching the jurisdiction's boundary when we see behind us a fast-approaching car with the familiar Ford Crown Vic front end...the calvary's arrived. The red and blue lights come on, but again, our fleeing truck doesn't stop. So I pull over, expecting the officer to take up the lead, but to my frustration, he pulls over behind US instead.

Now shame on me--I know better--but when he didn't immediately come out of his cruiser, I opened my door, stepped out holding my badge up, and yelled: "That one! Get him!"
The officer stepped out of his cruiser and yelled back, "Did he hit you?"

"Yeah! Now go get him!""

"Don't yell at me!" the other officer responds, getting back into his car.

"Sorry!" I yell, getting back into mine. The officer takes off after the truck, and we naturally take off right after the officer. Two cars that had passed us as we sat on the side of the road were treated to the spectacle of seeing the police car passing them on the left with the car that it had just stopped in hot pursuit. I'm so used to doing this sort of thing on the clock that it never occurred to me not to do it here and now in my POV....besides, when this officer catches the truck, he's liable to be alone and we may well be his only back-up until others arrive.

A couple of miles up the road, the officer catches the truck. Just as he pulls up behind it, another police vehicle ahead of it puts it's lights on, and the truck is effectively trapped. It pulls into a gas station, as do the two police cars and us. I almost pulled in beside the cruiser "felony stop" style out of habit, but at the last second realized that my part in this was done. I stopped back a bit and my pal and I waited to make contact with one of the officers who was actually at work and in their own jurisdiction.

As it turned out, the driver of the truck was a punk teen. He told the officers that he was scared because we were chasing him, but he never explained while I was there why he didn't stop in the first place OR when the first officer put his lights on. My take is that the kid is both a coward and a liar, and now he's got a charge of Reckless Driving under a statute that imposes jail time upon conviction. And of course, as cops will do, we all got to be talking. Not unexpectedly, we all have mutual friends/co-workers in common. I even apologized to the nice young officer that I'd yelled at in the heat of things.
And of course THAT had to make the kid feel good, to see the cops detaining him acting like it was "old home week" and laughing with the people that he'd hit. Feeling a little but outnumbered there, junior? Good!

Anyway, it ended on a good note, in that the bad guy got caught and no one got hurt. Discussing it afterwards, my pal and I agreed that both of our respective agencies would probably have called that chase off long before it's conclusion, but since we didn't have any supervisors on the radio to tell us to break it off--and since traffic was light and the weather was good (and the bad guy only doing about 70mph max) we exercised our discretion and made use of our training and abilities to go a little (ok, a lot) farther than any civilians should ever have considered attempting. (In my defense, I'd just completed a 40-hour in-service pursuit driving refresher course.) Should we have chased the kid? Probably not. But we did, and a hit-run driver who would otherwise have gotten away with it got nabbed in the end, bascially because of all the cars that he could have hit that night, he had the bad luck to hit the one containing two police officers.

Oh, and a fair warning to people with GEICO insurance... GEICO has informed me that even though I'm not at fault in any way, I'm still responsible for a deductable. Apparently they don't waive that like other insurance companies do. So if you're a GEICO customer, you might want to re-think that.

And despite the drama, I did manage to get my pal to the airport on time the next day. He's off on a new adventure as one of Alaska's newest State Troopers.

Those moose and meth-heads have no idea what's coming their way.


Andrew MacKie-Mason said...

This reminds me of a video I saw of an out of uniform cop in an unmarked car who cut off a motorcycle, got out of his car and pointed his weapon at the guy, all before identifying himself.

Stopping for a police car (especially if you're on your own, late at night, in a not-very-populated area) already involves a significant amount of trust. It just makes it worse if there's no way to identify the person pursuing you as a police officer.

He obviously should have stopped when he hit you, and he deserve anything he gets for swerving across a yellow line and fleeing the scene of an accident (assuming, of course, that it was him who swerved across the line.) But from that point on he behaved almost exactly as I would: if I were being chased by what appeared to be two guys in a car, I would do my best to get away. At the worst, it ensures that the real cops show up to deal with the situation.

Sergeant Krupke said...

Not only did he not stop when he hit us, but he also didn't stop when the first police officer arrived and tried to stop us both. he only stopped later when that officer got right behind him and another officer appeared ahead of him. The kid was obviously running--he just didn't know where to go.

Sabra said...

Ah, I remember arguing with Geico over the deductible issue. We were told they'd reimburse us from what the other guy's insurance paid them. Took a little bit of arguing, but they saw the error of their ways.

And while I agree that I wouldn't have stopped for someone chasing me down...Well, I wouldn't have put myself in the position of being chased down. Sometimes it is that simple.

Beat And Release said...

Nice job! And thanks for the Geico warning. Guess I'll have to dump them now.

Jeremy said...

Andrew, I think I know what video you're talking about. While I'm not exactly sure of the protocol and how close that was to how the officer handled it, the motorcycle driver was doing 80 for quite awhile swerving in and out of traffic. And then when he was finally caught there was a marked police car behind him with lights on. I would think that would be enough.

Here's the video

Andrew MacKie-Mason said...

Jeremy, I'm not sure where you see the marked car. When he looks behind him at -:38 I think that's the unmarked car. As far as I can tell, we don't see the marked car until after the guy pulls a gun and the other guy gets off his bike.

And I'm not sure about where you're from, but here going 80 isn't really cause for excitement. :)

The point, if I may, is that it's easy for police to start looking like thugs. That danger is exacerbated if the police officer isn't identifiable.

Obviously, hit and run is not a good thing to do. But it's clear that chasing someone down without being identified is also not a good thing to do. Not only does it make the roads less safe by scaring someone into trying to flee, it also (arguably, at least) verges on assault.

A question for Mr. Krupke: if, in the process of fleeing you (prior to any marked cars showing up) the car had caused an accident would you have accepted any moral responsibility? If someone who wasn't a cop did the same thing as you, would you have held them responsible?

Ten 80 said...

Thanks for making my last pursuit there a memorable one, and your hospitality is greatly appreciated!

I'm loving it out here bro!

Sergeant Krupke said...

Andrew, I'm not going to get into a back-and-forth on this, but in this case, this guy was fleeing well before he knew that we were coming after him. My first thought was that he was fleeing because he was a drunk driver or had warrants, and that's worthy of a bit of effort.
As to your question about morality, I'm more into reality. When bad people do bad things, the blame for anything that happens as a result is on them 100%. I know that it's fashionable for some of you more liberal/academic types to try to assign their guilt to other better people who are trying to stop them--typically the police--but that doesn't fly in my world.

Sergeant Krupke said...

Ten-80, it was my pleasure. You find the $20.00 you lost yet, or should I add it to the insurance claim?

Jay said...

Sergeant Krupke you and your friend should be congratulated. You helped to put a dangerous idiot off the road. If your accident had been more serious would he have stopped and rendered assistance? Obviously not. If you want to point the moral finger at anyone I don't think you need look any further than Mr hit and run.

rob said...

I don't normally read blogs except for B&R's blog. However I was bored and checked yours out. It's well written and unique. I will add you to my bookmark. Thanks for your service in helping the public, police are often criticized and almost never recognized for the hard work they do. I'm not a cop and don't want to be one lol. Thanks again.

Andrew MacKie-Mason said...

"If your accident had been more serious would he have stopped and rendered assistance? Obviously not."

Out of curiosity, why do you say that's "obvious"? There's a large difference between fleeing a scene where you've caused property damage and are afraid of getting in trouble, and fleeing the scene of a serious accident where people are hurt. It's not at all hard to imagine a person who would run away in the first circumstance but stay and help in the second.

Dee said...

Great story! Glad you caught the little turd. And you buddy is welcome up in my neck of the woods.

Jay said...

AM if Hit and Run didn't have the stomach or the moral code to face up to a minor accident I doubt he'd have enough backbone to hang round after something more serious. You give him the benefit of the doubt if you wish but to me H&R has already proven what he does best - Run.

Mad Jack said...

Andrew, apply Ockham's razor to the situation. The kid went left of center and side swiped another vehicle. He ran because he didn't want to have to deal with the very slight consequences of the damage he did, likely less than $500. If he had stopped, all he'd have to do is provide his contact and insurance information along with an apology and everyone would go their separate ways. He didn't do that. He got arrested and was given one or more traffic tickets.

By his actions, the alleged perpetrator is not the sort of person who observes the damage he's done in his rear view mirror and returns to offer assistance depending on the severity of the accident.

Good job on getting this clown off the road. Having dodged several left of center drivers myself, I know that it's a real heart stopping experience. I hope this kid realizes the seriousness of his violation and learns something from it.