Kansas Legislation Heading In A Dangerous Direction

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The insane Kansas legislation to remove liability for police pursuits

by Jonathan Farris
Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change

. Here’s what the Cambridge English Dictionary says. “The fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it, or the degree to which this happens.”  Seems like a fairly simple concept, doesn’t it?

But, apparently, the Kansas League of Municipalities and the Kansas Legislature think differently. They believe that police officers who knowingly conduct a police chase in an inherently dangerous manner, without consideration for innocent bystanders, should have ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY.

Excuse me, but let me call this legislation what it truly is. Complete BS.

This end-around of justice is simply the municipalities and legislators attempting to protect their financial bottom lines by REMOVING ACCOUNTABILITY. The legislators who have signed onto this bill are willing to simply toss out their constituencies’ safety solely so some city won’t have to defend a bystander death or injury-causing decision made by the local police.

Explain to me how removing ACCOUNTABILITY for poor decisions is going to improve law enforcement and protect law-abiding citizens?

But why stop with the removal of ACCOUNTABILITY for a dangerous police pursuit? Apparently the legislature and Kansas League of Municipalities thinks it’s OK for an officer to drive a 3,000 pound police vehicle through city streets at 100MPH and carry no responsibility for whatever happens.

So, let’s get creative. How about allowing officers use their firearm whenever they want, regardless of the outcome?  Why? Because there is virtually no difference between these two scenarios when it comes to endangering bystanders. None. But hey, you know, it’s all about ending those pesky accountability lawsuits, not about protecting citizens.

Other legislative possibilities are endless. Maybe Kansas legislators can simply eliminate ALL ACCOUNTABILITY for everything they and the municipalities do. Wow, terrific idea, because that will reduce lawsuits and save tons of money.

Truly, does the Kansas legislature really care about citizens’ protection while those citizens are legally going about their business? Nah, not if those same silly bystanders are going to cause a city to spend money defending a justified legal challenge. Remember that, after all, this legislation is really all about ending those pesky accountability lawsuits and financial settlements.

Obviously, at least in in Kansas, ACCOUNTABILITY is way overrated…



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.”

Facts of the situation need to be considered, he said.

David Morantz, a Kansas City attorney whose firm worked on the case in question, recommended that lawmakers wait for the high court to issue a ruling before they reconfigure state law.

“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.”

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