LA TIMES: Justices OK Deadly Force in some Police Pursuits

May 1, 2007
msnbc: Supreme Court sides with police in chase case April 30, 2007 Supreme Court rejects police chase challenge, May 1, 2007

From the SacBee story: "The CHP has well-developed pursuit policies, which have been used as a nationwide model for law enforcement agencies," spokeswoman Jaimie Coffee said.

Candy Priano's Commentary: Whether or not the CHP has well-developed pursuit policies is meaningless because California's state law does not require officers to follow their pursuit policies. There is no accountability to innocent victims of pursuit. (I don't blame the officers for the actions of the fleeing driver, but I certainly believe there should be accountability when officers fail to follow their pursuit policy, just like there is for all public safety policies.)

California's state law awards blanket immunity to law enforcement agencies as long as the agency has an adopted policy. California is the only state where police vehicular pursuit policies are developed, adopted and then legally ignored. No public agency—law enforcement agencies in particular—should adopt a policy they don't intend to follow.

Justice William Rylaarsdam of the Fourth Appellate Court of California in , wrote in an opinion on Nov. 26, 2002:

...we wish to express our displeasure with the current version of section 17004.7. ... The adoption of a policy which may never be implemented is cold comfort to innocent bystanders .... We do not know if the policy was followed in this instance, and that is precisely the point: We will never know because defendant did not have to prove [if the] police officers participating in this pursuit followed the policy. We urge the Legislature to revisit this statute and seriously reconsider the balance between public entity immunity and public safety. The balance appears to have shifted too far toward immunity and left public safety, as well as compensation for innocent victims, twisting in the wind.

Section 17004.7 of the California Vehicle Code was changed and extended. Effective July 1, 2007, it will include an extensive list of minimum standards without accountability. Just like the pursuit policy, there is no requirement for officers to follow these minimum standards. The new paragraph on "promulgation of the written policy and requiring proof that all peace officers certify in writing that they have received, read, and understand the policy" becomes meaningless if the policy is not mandatory.

In fact, Section 17004.7 will include the following escape clause: "The failure of an individual officer to sign a certification shall not be used to impose liability on an individual officer or a public entity." California Vehicle Code, right here.