Testimonies


Candy Priano's Testimony
Senate Public Safety Committee
April 26, 2005

Victims' voices silenced again. 

When Candy Priano began to speak, Senator Elaine Alquist, chair of the Public Safety Committee, in a professional manner, told Candy that there was no time for her testimony because the committee had to hear 40-plus bills that day.


When Candy was told she could not present her testimony, she showed pictures of innocent victims of pursuit to the Senators. Senator Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, was the only senator who voted FOR Kristie's Law. How they voted, click here.

Candy's Planned Testimony

Again, I want to thank the members of the Senate Public Safety Committee and Senator Sam Aanestad and his staff. Today, I will probably talk a little bit about Kristie's death. But today is different, it's time that you heard the voices of other families who have had loved ones killed in pursuits and others who are victims of pursuit.

People—not numbers—are being killed in California and around the country because there is a mind set that says we must catch the bad guys at all cost.

I suspect that today you are going to hear a lot of numbers, a lot of statistics, so please when you hear the numbers, please remember, it is not really a number, it is a person ... someone's daughter, someone's mother, wife, sister, brother, husband, son, grandchild.

After the Informational Hearing in March, I put a request on the Kristie's Law web site for people to submit their testimonies for this hearing. Some wrote in and others simply said, read anything you want that I've already sent you.

One of the new testimonies came from Albert Boland. He lives in Dobbins and has been sending all of you letters and emails in support of Kristie's Law. But the last one he sent caught my attention because he wrote: Killing the innocent does not save lives. What some of you may not have picked up from Mr. Boland's many emails is that his innocent 18-year-old granddaughter Sarah was killed in a police pursuit in Sacramento.

Mr. Boland tells me that a helicopter was involved in this pursuit and the pursuing officer was told to back off because of heavy traffic that was just ahead on the road. Mr. Boland says the officer disobeyed and continued with the pursuit that resulted in a crash that killed his innocent granddaughter. When Sarah's parents filed a wrongful death suit against the City of Sacramento, of course, their suit was summarily dismissed.  

The horror doesn't stop there. (And please know these are Albert Boland's words) Sarah's parents, Chris and Laura, received a $6,000 bill from the City of Sacramento for the city's legal fees. Fortunately, this time, a judge must have decided enough is enough for one family to bear and threw out the city's request for $6,000. And I believe Mr. Boland's story because we too, like so many other victims of pursuit, received just one correspondence from our city after Kristie was killed. And it reads: WARNING: Please be advised that, pursuant to Section 1038 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, the City will seek to recover all costs of defense in the event an action is filed in the matter and it is determined that the action was not brought in good faith and with reasonable cause. We were listed as heirs-at-law to Kristina Priano.

Kristie's Law, SB 718, does not address immunity any more. Senator Sam Aanestad has found another way to introduce legislation that is PREVENTATIVE and will save lives because SB 718 will lower the number of chases. Less chases means less deaths.

In closing, Kristie and many other victims of pursuit would be alive today, if Senate Bill 718 had been the law in 2002. I also ask you to ask yourself this question: When was the last time you read this headline:

"Innocent bystander killed during police chase of unknown (or sometimes known) suspect for a minor traffic infraction."

I've read this headline too many times. In the last month three people - three innocent people were killed in California pursuits for this very reason and a fourth innocent bystander was killed in Berkeley when police chased a known drug dealer. This chase netted one known drug dealer for the life of an innocent graduate student.

I, and many other Californians, urge you to vote "yes" today on Senate Bill 718. It is up to you to prevent future victims of pursuit.

 

 

Candy Priano's Testimony
Senate Public Safety Committee
April 13, 2004

Kristie's Law had its first hearing before California legislators.

Our family supports law enforcement, but our experience has led us to seek changes in our state's police pursuit law. I have talked to many officers who support restrictive pursuit policies because they believe innocent bystanders should not be getting killed so they can catch "the bad guys." These officers still do their job. They just do it in a different way -- a safer way.

On November 26, 2002, in deciding a case where a pedestrian was killed during a pursuit through a California high school parking lot, the judges of the Fourth Appellate Court expressed their displeasure with the current state law governing police pursuits. The judges said, "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:  The police did not have to prove that they followed their 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 twisting in the wind." 

After seeing Kristie's story on The John Walsh Show, Retired Washington State Police Chief Donald Van Blaricom sent us a letter. He wrote, "Since California provided complete immunity to police agencies that adopt a four criteria pursuit policy, without requiring that the policy be followed, your state has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in police pursuit deaths and the toll promises to continue ever higher until there is statutory intervention -- best wishes in your important efforts with Kristie's Law."

The Chief was recently asked to write a report for Illinois law enforcement following the death of an innocent young woman who was standing on a street corner in downtown Chicago. She was struck and killed by a car whose occupants were being pursued for stealing a wallet. Her small lifeless body was thrown 40 feet.  In his report, the Chief addresses this myth about police pursuit: "If officers don't chase, someone else might get killed." He responds: "There is no reason to believe a greater loss would occur from taking less risk," and the Chief has been quoted in newspapers, saying, "Citizens do not volunteer to be rolling roadblocks for police."  For me, Kristie's death is real, unlike this "someone else" I keep hearing about. 

Chief Jim Murray of Peachtree City, Georgia also wrote to us. "It is a tragic shame Kristie will not have a chance to experience all the wonderful things in life that were taken away from her with this event. I have been an outspoken critic about needless police chases for more than a year and have received threats and praise because of my stand, but I will continue to fight for the rights of victims all over the USA. So count on me to be there and call on me at any time to help you."

Back home in California, too many pursuits have tragic endings. They illustrate the need for Kristie's Law, a bill for safer and smarter police pursuit policy and accountability:

Here are a few examples:  Officer Joshua Lancaster and his wife Heather were looking forward to moving into their new home.  Instead, Officer Lancaster became an innocent bystander killed at an intersection as Sanger Police chased a man driving a stolen truck.  In addition to Lancaster, a female passenger in the truck and her unborn baby were killed.  Ironically, Officer Lancaster was a member of the Fresno Sheriff's Department, a law enforcement agency that does not chase for property crimes, but that policy did not save Officer Lancaster.  Lack of radio communication between Sanger Police and Fresno was blamed for this deadly pursuit. The Fresno Be reported that Officer Lancaster's family believes Sanger Police didn't want to notify the Sheriff's Department about the chase because they knew Fresno Sheriff would want to call it off.

Another Fresno pursuit.  This time Adam McKinnis, his wife and 15-month-old son were going to church when a car being pursued by the CHP crashed into their car.  Adam, also known as Bubba to his many friends, died seven days later.  The public strongly voiced their concerns, saying: "We no longer felt safe." The reason why the CHP initiated this pursuit was highly questioned: seat belt violation?  or was it speeding?  Yes, drugs were later found in the suspect's car, but is the Adam McKinnis family really safer now?  Again, Fresno PD and Sheriff's Departments both have restrictive pursuit policies, but other agencies do not.

Stockton:  A mother drives to Stockton high school to pick up her two daughters and one of their friends.  They never make it out of the school zone.  They are hit by a fellow school mate fleeing from the police.  The three high school girls died at the scene; the mom died at the hospital.

And is it not horrific to learn that two teenage girls in San Diego were walking home from school, only to be killed as a car fleeing from police rides the sidewalk?

I am here today because I believe you will listen to me as I address the issue of public safety in police pursuit.  I would not waste my time talking to fleeing suspects. They do not care about my loss, and quite frankly, I do not expect suspects who flee from police to care.

But I do expect and truly believe that the police do care about my Kristie's death, and Desiree's, Ashley's, Bernice's and Christina's deaths in Stockton, Quillar's in Long Beach, Delonn's in Desert Hot Springs, Scott's, Ted's and Mariline's in three separate pursuit-related crashes in San Francisco, Jessica's death in Oxnard, Adam's in Fresno, Aaron's and Jacob's in Los Angeles, William's in Oakland and Gregory's a resident of Modesto and Jody's a resident of Grass Valley, both killed in Oakland, Eula's -- a Texas resident killed in Escondido and her 52-year-old friend Dorthia who is now confined to a nursing home in Texas because of her injuries, Myra's death in Oceanside, and 4-year-old Evelyn, who was holding her mother's hand at a bus stop in Los Angeles when she was killed in a pursuit-related crash ... and 7-year-old Korina's death in Escondido, and the more famous Harley, a three-week old baby whose arm was severed in a pursuit crash in Sylmar. 

If you think this is a long list of names, think again because this list represents only a small fraction of the number of innocent people killed in California pursuits in the last couple years.  And I do not expect fleeing suspects to care about the deaths of Cpl. Tyler Pinchot, Officer Terry Bennett or Officer Lancaster. These officers were killed in 2003 in high-speed chases. In a few of these pursuit-related deaths that took either the life of an innocent bystander or that of an officer, the fleeing suspects were not even caught. In our case, as I was being told that my innocent daughter was going to die, the fleeing suspect went home with her mother. 

And I want to add that we support stricter penalties for those who flee, but stricter penalties alone will not solve this problem because the "young, dumb and/or stupid" will still flee.  It is the police the people rely upon to serve and protect all of us -- even innocent bystanders. 

Public awareness and pressure paved the way for safer weapon and firearm policies; so eventually, the way officers conduct pursuits will change.  If law enforcement does not make the change on its own, the people must -- and will -- turn to their legislators.

In 2003, LAPD Chief William Bratton rectified policy weaknesses in his jurisdiction.  Prompted by the baby who lost his arm.  But doing it one agency at time is a slow and tedious process and people are dying now.  Here's what I'm talking about:  Last month, a deadly pursuit over a stolen car in San Francisco ended with the death of an innocent woman.  Now, the San Francisco PD will restrict pursuits.  But sadly, another person had to die for that to happen.

Of major concern is that the CHP and some legislators see no need for change even after these deadly pursuits in school zones, high school parking lots, and residential neighborhoods. 

Addressing this concern is a Fresno Bee columnist.  After the death of Adam McKinnis, he writes: "The CHP is in denial about another myth of high-speed chases -- they won't have another chance to catch law breakers.  Truth is, with good police work, the CHP can find them another day.  Other agencies do, because they train officers to think that way."

And on Jan. 20, 2004, the Temecula PD did just that.  The news headline read: Police Quit Chase and Still Make Arrest.  In the story Lt. Chris Davis said: "I would like to think it would have been canceled regardless.  It would have been a poor decision to continue to chase the vehicle when we could identify the driver.  Any time speeding or driving conditions appear to make the risk to the public greater than the need to apprehend the suspect, we'll discontinue the pursuit."

As more and more citizens become educated about pursuit, they are saying, "Enough is enough."  Every day I recall my son's face when he told me, "Mom, the last thing I remember was Kristie laughing."  The last thing I remember was hearing both my children laughing.  I smiled and looked out the window into the darkness, thinking I was the luckiest mom.

As a citizen I am pursuing justice because, as my mom said, "Two wrongs do not make it right."  Today I say, "When it comes to police pursuit, two wrongs do not make it right.  They make it deadly."

 


Jim Phillips' testimony
before the Senate Public Committee Hearing
April 13, 2004

Good morning. I would like to thank Senator Aanestad and the committee for the opportunity to be here today. My name is Jim Phillips. I am not a police officer. I am not a scholar. I am an ordinary citizen thrust into the pursuit controversy because of the death of my 20-year-old daughter Sarah, an innocent bystander killed as a result of a pursuit in Orange County, Florida, in December of 2001. I come to the study of pursuit policy, training and accountability from a need to better understand why Sarah died and if it could have been prevented.

In April of 2003, as a result of my families settlement agreement in a wrongful death suit with the Orange County Sheriff's Office I was appointed by Sheriff Kevin Beary to serve on a committee to review and revise Orange County Pursuit Policy. Many of the police officers here may know Kevin Beary. He was voted "2003 Sheriff of the Year" by the National Sheriff's Association and is known as a tough "Law and Order" sheriff and for his fierce loyalty to his 1300 sworn deputies.

At a news conference in October 2003, called to announce the adoption of a new more restrictive pursuit policy, Sheriff Beary said, "It is too dangerous to continue to do things the way we always have. It is time to change the 'culture' of police departments concerning pursuits. The Orange County Sheriff's Office is tightly controlling pursuits because it is the right thing to do, it is the responsible thing to do, and it is the safe thing to do."

As the review of the Orange County Policy was being completed, I was appointed to a Citizen Review Committee tasked to review the Orlando Police Department's pursuit policy. The review was the idea of Chief Mike McCoy, who signed on as patrol officer with OPD over 25 years ago and has watched it grow from a small city force to a 600 officer metropolitan force. He pledged to accept the recommendations of the committee no matter what they were from a no-pursuit policy to a wide-open discretionary policy. After several months of work and study the committee "tweaked" and modernized the already restrictive policy. As a result Chief McCoy sleeps better at night, although it is probably inevitable that the middle-of-the-night call will come. Sometimes tragic events occur despite the best efforts of all involved. But, Chief McCoy, and his officers, have the comfort of knowing that as long as they follow the policy they have the support of the community. It is, after all, the community that set the standard.

As we meet here today the OPD policy is being adopted by 10 other departments in Central Florida and the Mayor of Altamonte Springs is considering a Citizen Review Panel. Progressive and restrictive pursuit policy is breaking out all over Central Florida and it will soon be almost universal in the Tri-County area.

For the last year police pursuit policy has been a major topic of media coverage in Central Florida. The coverage has been extensive and pervasive. Contrary to the predictions of many, the Orange County Sheriff's Office has not observed an increase in the number of suspects who flee. In fact, this has generally been the case nationwide when policies become more restrictive. The American population is divided into two groups-those who pull over when directed by police and those who are reckless and irresponsible and flee. To believe that there are a significant number of drivers who are straddling the fence and will become reckless and irresponsible in response to pursuit policy change is absurd.

Eduardo Gonzalez retired as Chief of the Tampa Florida Police Department and currently is a volunteer with CALEA, the national police accreditation organization. In a recent conversation with him concerning Kristie's Law he remarked to me that its greatest strength is that it, "establishes well defined parameters, and it will take much of the guess work out of the equation for the officers,  and define for them in greater detail when they can and cannot pursue." Every police officer in this room knows of promising law enforcement careers that were compromised on the shifting sands of vague or overly discretionary policy. Because police officers deal daily with life or death situations they are in the unenviable position of having their every action judged in the light of perfect hind sight.

Police officers often tell me that they need discretion in pursuit policy because they have to make split-second decisions. This leads me to what I call the myth of the split-second decision.

I can best demonstrate the fallacy of this line of reasoning by relating it to my teaching my son how to pitch in baseball. Before each pitch I taught my son to concentrate on visualizing the pitch. Curveball, fastball or change? In or away, up or down? Where was the batter likely to hit the ball if he was able to handle the pitch? What inning was it? How many outs? What was the score? What was he going to do if the batter bunted or if a base runner decided to steal? With a good baseball player there are rarely any surprises; he knows what he is going to do in virtually any situation. Courses of action dictated by the Rules of the Game, the Percentages, his Experience and by hours of Practice and all before he took a deep breath in preparation for his windup.

Good police officers do the same. Before they ever "light up" a vehicle they have already considered what they will do if the suspect vehicle does not respond appropriately:
1. Does my department's pursuit policy permit me to pursue this suspect?
2. Are there other means of apprehension?
3. Are there any conditions present (traffic, weather, time of day etc.) that make pursuit too dangerous?
4. What is the likely outcome of the pursuit?

Life or death decisions? To be sure. Decisions made on the fly or in a split-second? Not by baseball players or by good, well trained officers.

All over the county, in reaction to one horrifying incident after another, police pursuit policy and practice is coming under review. It is hardly a surprise that generally these reviews result in more restrictive policy when you consider this:

Research shows that approximately 40% of all pursuits result in a crash, 20% result in an injury and 1% result in a death. It is compelling that these percentages vary little from study to study and are accurate for departments throughout the country and over a period of years, even when the numbers of pursuits fluctuate. With as many as 70,000 pursuits occurring every year in the United States the conclusion is inescapable: pursuits are deadly business.

SB 1866, Kristie's Law, restricts and controls pursuits and it provides for accountability. To quote Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary, " It is the right thing to do, it is the responsible thing to do, and it is the safe thing to do."



California State Senate Judiciary Committee
Candy Priano's Testimony 
April 27, 2004

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger repeated one word during his campaign. That word is "accountability." I have read numerous reports on the topic of police pursuit since my innocent daughter Kristie was killed in a Chico pursuit where officers disregarded guidelines in their own pursuit policy. 

In an Illinois report, a retired police chief writes: "Perhaps the most important and most frequently missing component of the four areas for control of police pursuits is the accountability factor. This is difficult to understand because the absence of accountability clearly demonstrates to all concerned that policy, training and supervision are meaningless when there are no consequences for ignoring them. If, for instance, officers were not held accountable for compliance with their firearm policies, does anyone doubt that we would have many more bad shootings? The fact is that police pursuits seriously injure and kill far more innocent third parties than a bullet from an officers' firearm. Officers are strictly prohibited from firing into a crowd, but they are routinely given the latitude to pursue a stolen car through urban streets against traffic control devices until a collision terminates the chase." 

Two weeks ago, I shared with the Public Safety Committee the issue of public safety in police pursuit.  I expressed my belief that law enforcement does care about the victims of police pursuits, but I was surprised when the officer associations opposed SB 1866, claiming:

1. The criminals will get away, and 2.taxpayers will pay for because of litigation claims against cities and counties.

Regarding the first concern, I have learned that officers can catch " the bad guys" without pursuits; these officers are just doing their job in a more sophisticated way: a safer way. 

On Jan. 20, 2004, the news headline read: "Police Quit Chase and Still Make Arrest." In the story Lt. Chris Davis of the Temecula PD said: "I would like to think the pursuit would have been canceled regardless.  It would have been a poor decision to continue to chase the vehicle when we could identify the driver."

On April 12, a Channel 3 news broadcast from Palm Springs reported that some state police have come out against the bill.  But Cpl. Dennis Gutierrez of the Riverside County Sheriffs Depart. said, "If the bill does pass, it won't stop us from catching the bad guys.  We can put out a warrant, we can pick them up at their home, they have families in the area."

On April 21, Sunnyvale Lt. George McCloskey sent me an email which read, "Just last week we had a pursuit begin in Sunnyvale, only to be terminated by the initiating officer shortly after he was able to determine that the costs outweighed the benefits of the chase. The officer was able to obtain a license plate and do it differently, perhaps saving a life in the meantime. I cannot say that his actions were totally related to our recent training where you and Mark talked to our officers about pursuit from a victims' perspective; however, if we reached just one officer and prevented just one tragedy, we have done our job as Law Enforcement Trainers! "

The topic of police pursuit is a volatile issue within law enforcement agencies, so I asked the Lt. if I could use his email at this hearing. 

His response: "Please use the email in your testimony and mention that during your presentation to our Department that the overwhelming response from line-level officers, supervisors, and command staff is one of support for safer apprehension of criminals, and the public. The way we do our jobs is determined by the public we serve, and it is our responsibility to deliver the best service with their safety in mind. No one wants to be involved in a tragedy, and no criminal is worth catching if others are hurt or killed in the process.  For a law enforcement manager to cling to tools of the past, negates the ingenuity and dedication of those who now perform the law enforcement role with distinction."

In sharp contrast to the Sunnyvale story, the following story was posted at 8:26 a.m. on April 24, 2004:  The CHP reported Saturday night that a Solano County Sheriff Deputy was the victim of a fatal crash while pursuing a speeding vehicle.  As the sheriff's vehicle exited a curve in the road the vehicle's right tire entered the dirt on the edge of the roadway and hit a large rock, overturning the patrol unit.  The deputy who was driving was ejected and thrown into a water-filled ditch.  The deputy succumbed to his injuries at the hospital, and his passenger suffered minor injuries.

And this brings me to the second reason why officer associations and the Attorney General's Office are opposed to SB 1866:  Litigation costs and the taxpayers will pay.

I can tell you the death of a loved one killed in a preventable tragedy is immeasurable. My Kristie was a special gift from God. She was an honor student, a class officer, an athlete, and most important, a loving daughter and devoted sister. She was a law-abiding citizen and a community volunteer. Kristie will always be remembered for her tireless work at the Chico Creek Nature Center where she fed and took care of injured animals in Bidwell Park. She was always ready to volunteer for any worthwhile project in the community and was just a month away from her first mission trip to care for children in an orphanage in Costa Rica.  

But if officer associations want to look at cost, I will share with them that two insurance companies paid more than $200,000 each for medical expenses and other compensation (counseling services, on-going medical expenses, etc.) because we asked the doctors to do whatever they needed to do to save our daughter, that a third insurance company paid $60,000 and another $15,000. Two totaled vehicles came to about $50,000, and burial expenses were $20,000. I was unable to go back to work for four months and then I returned on a very limited part-time basis. About two months after Kristie was killed, I was again taken to the hospital because I kept calling out for Kristie and didn't believe my husband when he told me Kristie was dead. Because of my absence, a temporary employee was hired to fill in. I too work for the State of California, so the state paid for that cost and I collected sick leave benefits.  Both my family and the City of Chico hired attorneys. My understanding is that the city hired a very expensive attorney before we even filed our lawsuit against the city, so there were litigation costs. 

Now for this sheriff's deputy who was just killed.  The deputy's family and friends are just beginning to process their loss. Again, it's immeasurable. The Department of General Services can tell you how much a patrol car costs, a conservative estimate is $35,000, but make/model, types of equipment (computers, lights, decals, paint scheme) can dramatically increase the cost.  Survivors benefits to family members of officers killed in the line of duty need to be paid.  I don't know the amounts or the full extent of these benefits. There may also be some educational benefits for the surviving children of such officers. The cost of injured officers is probably captured by individual agencies, but it may also be reported to the State Department of Industrial Relations. Incarceration for those who flee and end up killing an innocent victim and court costs vary for many reasons.  So I hope the Attorney Governor's Office now realizes that the taxpayers are paying (pause) and many of us taxpayers are paying too high a price for unnecessary police pursuits. 

Had the Chico police followed their own pursuit policy, there would have been no insurance claims to file and no litigation because there would not have been a pursuit. According to the Chico policy, since officers knew the identity and address of the juvenile they could have caught her later -- similar to what Temecula PD and the Sunnyvale officer did. Instead officers chased the girl at high speeds through 100 percent residential with narrow street and poor visibility at night. 

Since California leads the nation in the number of innocent victims killed, maimed, and injured in pursuits, I urge law enforcement to collaborate with Senator Aanestad by providing information that will make SB 1866 the means to prevent a new generation of innocent victims of pursuits. 

In closing, Chief Steven Jones of the Orange County (Florida) Sheriff's Department says it perfectly: "Our 'jobs' are to make our streets as safe as possible, not the opposite. Law enforcement agencies need to answer one question:  Is it worth the lives and safety of our officers and citizens to chase traffic offenders? ... Several years ago we updated our policy to discontinue pursuits of stolen vehicles. Many complained that it opened the door for car thieves to escape justice and more cars would be stolen.  In fact, just the opposite happened.  Stolen car crashes went to zero and our capture rate soared sky-high!  We simply re-evaluated the old way of catching criminals and started 'Auto Trap.'  The police mentality that the bad guys will always run if they know that we can't pursue is nonsense!  We disproved that theory years before when we decided not to pursue traffic offenders." 

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