Op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The legal system has failed in its treatment of Jets’ defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson (“Richardson draws fine, no jail time,” Jan. 27).
To let Richardson off with a slap on the wrist sends the wrong signal about high-speed police pursuits and the inherent risks. Mr. Richardson’s poor decision to flee — at speeds topping 140 mph — did more than temporarily endanger himself. His actions threatened the safety of his passengers as well as the pursuing officers and countless innocent civilians who unknowingly ended up in his path.
With his decision to let Richardson dodge serious penalty, the prosecutor and judge missed an opportunity to send the right message that fleeing law enforcement officials is totally unacceptable.
Each day in the United States, one person dies from a police pursuit and one-third of those fatalities are innocent victims. Chases are inherently dangerous for pursuing officers, with the potential to wreak havoc even greater than the loaded handgun found in Richardson’s car.
While St. Louis appears content to all but reward reckless actions, other police departments around the country are adopting tougher pursuit policies, tougher sentencing, and alternatives to pursuits including GPS tracking technologies to curb high-speed chases altogether.
On a personal level, I am appalled by the decision in this case. I live every day with the pain of losing my son, who was an innocent bystander killed by a vehicle fleeing police. I hope that by raising awareness of this critical issue, future judgments deal severe sentences, and ultimately pursuits like Richardson’s are lessened and nearly eliminated.
To get involved with this important work, please sign our Change.org petition: www.change.org/p/attorney-general-of-the-united-states-prevent-unnecessary-police-pursuits-and-save-innocent-victim-lives.