Police Pursuit Liability

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Police Liability and High Speed Pursuits
Rodgers

There is a line in the Bible that states “sometimes the wicked flee, when no man pursueth," (Proverbs 28:1, King James Version), law enforcement officers know only too well that there are numerous instances in which motorists flee, despite the fact that they are being pursued, and are lawfully being commanded to pull over and stop, for purposes of investigation, citation for traffic offenses, or for arrest of a more serious crime.

Police pursuits and liability is no doubt a vast subject, which has given rise to many schools of thought. On one hand, it is believed that pursuits are worth the risks that are taken, while on the other hand, a completely opposed thought believes that pursuit activities are far too dangerous and should be abandoned. Whatever your belief, the truth lies somewhere in between regarding police pursuits and liability which in order to explore one must review various aspects of legal and moral decisions to analyze police pursuit driving and its potential liability. Laws regulating police pursuits are both criminal and civil in nature and differ among states and other jurisdictions. General principles of liability which are applicable to police pursuit driving include but are not limited the following: duty owned, proximate cause, immunity, the federal civil rights act, law suits by injured officers and criminal prosecutions (Alpert Dunham, 1990, p. 12) Certain duties and obligations of police officers must be determined by local policies, regulations, official orders, customs, and laws.

It is accepted that a police officer can initiate the stop of an automobile for any particular violation or suspected criminal offence. If a motorist refuses to stop, an officer has no duty to refrain from pursuing, unless permitted by his/her departmental policy, even where there is some risk of harm to the public. However, police must act with a duty of care and reasonableness when pursuing the...
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