With word a police chase may have played a part in a collision that killed a Vancouver Island constable — a former RCMP watchdog is calling for tougher rules around the practice.
Nearly two decades ago, spurred on by a botched chase that left a pair of college students dead, former chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission Shirley Heafey penned a report questioning the need for police chases — and warning about the lack of force-wide rules around how they are conducted.
“They need to protect themselves and the public, and they need to have decent policies.”
“A police officer can cross an intersection with out sirens and without lights – that means anyone who’s coming down on the other side legally on another street doesn’t know that car is speeding. It’s a police car, no lights and no sirens.”
She says the force essentially ignored the document.
Heafey says her research revealed chases are rarely necessary – either because officers know who they are chasing, or can track the car by its license plate.
She says if the suspect is a drunk driver, chasing them will only escalate the danger of the situation; but even when everyone is sober there is peril.
“It’s known the adrenaline [of officers] is so high that mistakes are made. Not intentionally, but mistakes are made.”
Heafey says technology, like the GPS darts that the Delta police use to track speeding suspect vehicles has made chases obsolete.
She says there’s also a more cost effective and easy to implement model, used by the Calgary police.
There, command and control of pursuit is done from the detachment, not the driver’s seat.
“They then will say what is the status, are there people around? Do you know who this person is, have you got a [license plate? All of these questions. And once the information is all down, the monitor will say stop the chase. Stop it now.”
Late this week, the Independent Investigation Office revealed it is probing the collision that claimed RCMP Corporal Sarah Beckett’s life, amid reports the vehicle that hit her was being pursued by a police cruiser that wasn’t using its sirens.