Charges, Lawsuit For Minneapolis Cop Pursuing Stolen Vehicle
A Minneapolis police officer is facing vehicular manslaughter charges after taking the life of an innocent motorist during a high-speed chase. The two vehicles were blazing through residential neighborhoods where the posted speed limit is 25 mph. The officer was going at least 80 mph when his squad car struck another vehicle killing a 40-year-old local. The chase spanned more than 25 blocks.
According to reports, the bystander had pulled into the intersection on a green light in preparation for a left-hand turn. The stolen vehicle narrowly avoided the man’s car, but the squad car had no such luck. An accident reconstruction report cited the officer for operating his vehicle without regard to the safety of others. As a result of the incident, the Mayor said the City would review its pursuit policy to avoid future incidents.
A spokesman for the police department said that the officer was not violating department policy during the chase. Prosecutors, however, disagree and will pursue charges against him. In response, prosecutors cited the policy itself which appears to support the prosecution’s allegations that the officer continued the chase into a residential neighborhood where he had reason to suspect that innocent bystanders, including children, would be present. Under the department’s policy, the chase should have been dropped then. Had it, a man would still be alive.
The officer’s attorney said that the officer was pursuing suspects who had been on a violent crime spree and carjacked the vehicle.
The Minneapolis police department has policies just like all police departments do. The department does not allow officers to pursue vehicles at high speeds for simple car theft. While the suspects were implicated in some robbery attempts, no weapons were used in the robberies and no one was injured. In cases where there is a presumptive risk to the public, the police can use discretion to pursue the vehicle. In those cases, it would be a matter of weighing the risk of a high-speed chase against the risk of allowing the suspects to remain free. In the case mentioned above, it does not appear that the criminals in question rose to the standard necessary to trigger a high-speed chase.
Minneapolis is now the poster child for police reform after the George Floyd incident rocked the nation and left Americans wondering how to police safely, fairly, and effectively. The department is currently reeling not only from Chauvin, but another incident in which a woman reported a sexual assault only to be shot dead by the responding officer. Minneapolis will vote to replace the police department with a new public safety unit. The unit would likely operate under the same rules, but offer more specialized services including mental health intervention services that will hopefully reduce the number of violent interactions with police officers.
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