Once again, powerful lobbying groups are simply more concerned with saving money than they are of saving the lives of innocent citizens. This “problem” could be alleviated if the municipalities adopted significantly more restrictive pursuit policies, increased officer training and introduced new pursuit reduction technology..
Bill inspired by high-speed chase in Topeka would remove liability for police
Legislation introduced by the Kansas League of Municipalities would strike from state law a requirement for police officers engaged in a high-speed chase to drive with regard for others’ safety.
The proposed change stems from litigation over a 2010 collision in Topeka. A man fleeing an off-duty Capitol Police officer in a stolen car at speeds of 100 mph through city streets crashed into a pickup and seriously injured its two occupants.
A district court judge rejected claims contending the officer, Patrick Saleh, didn’t have a valid reason to initiate and continue the high-speed chase. An appellate court reversal pointed to a section of state law that says drivers of emergency vehicles have a duty to consider the safety of everyone.
The case is now before the Kansas Supreme Court.
Amanda Stanley, general counsel for the League of Kansas Municipalities, said the case sparked discussion about state law and whether police pursuits merit an exception. The league wants to remove the obligation to drive with a due regard for safety.
“A law enforcement officer’s pursuit of fleeing offenders is inherent in the officer’s duty to protect the public and often involves split-second decisions that are easy to second guess in retrospect,” Stanley said.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee hearing testimony this week about House Bill 2065 pointed out that, as it stands, the law doesn’t distinguish between police and other operators of emergency vehicles. The same standards appear to apply to ambulance drivers, volunteer firefighters and possibly funeral procession guides.
Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, said the law also seems to apply to other police activity, such as an officer responding to a distress call or bank robbery.
“It’s crazy to have a cop going out here 100 mph inside the City of Topeka limits,” he said. “That would be pretty foolish and reckless.”
“This bill is either a very subtle way to completely change the law in Kansas and immunize law enforcement officers from even the most reckless conduct,” Morantz said, “or it’s a bill that the proponents and sponsors of it simply don’t understand.”