I’ve held off on posting about this until we knew more about what happened, but this news helps to clarify a tragic situation:
The Georgia State Patrol trooper involved in the New Year’s Eve crash that killed the wife of Braves trainer Jeff Porter has been fired.
In a statement released Friday, Col. Mark W. McDonough, commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety, said that while the investigation into Saturday’s wreck in downtown Atlanta is continuing, Trooper 1st Class Donald Crozier was terminated on Thursday….
Kathy Porter was a passenger in the Ford Expedition being driven by her husband, Jeff. The Ford was struck by Crozier’s Dodge Charger patrol car at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Memorial Drive. Kathy Porter died; her husband, as well as the couple’s son, David, and a third passenger were injured.
By now, most if not all law-enforcement agencies have clear policies regarding hot pursuit. The State Patrol’s actions in terminating this officer suggest that he acted in violation of those policies when he hit the Porter vehicle. (Crozier was reportedly en route to joining a high-speed chase on nearby I-20 when the accident occurred.)
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that some 360 people are killed each year in high-speed pursuits, although the actual number may be higher because no mechanism exists to collect that data nationally. Kathy Porter has now joined that number.
Like Porter, roughly a third of those killed are innocent victims. You don’t fire a gun at a suspect in a room of crowded people, even if it means that he might escape, and chasing a suspect at high speed on crowded streets raises similar questions of risk vs. benefit. You put innocent lives at risk.
In 2005, a survey of 15 Georgia law-enforcement agencies reported that they had engaged in more than 400 pursuits in the previous year. More than a quarter of those pursuits resulted in an accident, and more than half were initiated as result of a traffic offense. Only one chase in eight was related to a suspected felony.
Georgia courts give law enforcement considerable leeway as long as officers do not act in reckless disregard for public safety, meaning that they observe department policy. However, as the state Supreme Court has noted, while it’s desirable that suspects be apprehended, “it is equally as important that innocent persons, whether or not connected with the emergency to be met, not be maimed or killed in the operation.”
– Jay Bookman