Trust the officer on the scene: Opposing view

America’s police officers find themselves in an increasingly difficult situation. As crime rates continue to dramatically increase across the nation, officers are frequently accused of not doing their jobs, or deliberately turning a blind eye to crime. Yet when officers do take forceful action to stop crimes in progress, or to arrest those responsible for hurting others, they often find themselves labeled as brutal, racist thugs.

The issue of when and how police officers should chase criminals who are trying to escape in a motor vehicle has now been added to the national yelling match (it’s not a debate) about police. Critics of police are once again blaming the officer, not the criminal, for injuries, property loss and even deaths of innocent bystanders caused by criminals fleeing the crime scene in the hope of avoiding capture.

It is unrealistic to demand that officers only chase violent felons. Officers simply cannot know whether the initial report of a crime is accurate, and what level of violence actually occurred. The stark choice in real life is whether to try to stop the fleeing vehicle, or simply let it go. Hoping that a glance at a license plate can someday lead to an arrest is just wishful thinking.

Criminals aren’t stupid, and once word gets around that a particular police department won’t chase them, guess what? Every criminal in that jurisdiction will flee, resulting in even greater danger to the public at large than is posed by the current situation of relatively few and short pursuits.

At some point, we as a society have to trust the judgment of the officer on the scene. We want the bad guys caught, and sometimes there is simply no other way to do that than to chase them down.

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