POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – With four innocent people killed, 8 On Your Side is taking a closer look at how deputies responded to a fiery crash in Polk County on Monday.
In the moments before the deadly crash that happened just east of Haines City Sheriff Grady Judd said deputies were following the suspect’s car at a distance but not closely pursuing it.
At a news conference Wednesday, Sheriff Judd said deputies were following protocol as they needed to safely track the car without encouraging the suspect, behind the wheel, to drive erratically.
“Wasn’t a pursuit,” Sheriff Judd said, “If we were pursuing him, we would be on him…on top of him, with lights and sirens…We were driving in the same direction.”
Still, minutes and miles later, three innocent people and the suspect were killed in a multi-car crash.
8 On Your Side wanted to know the accepted protocol in a tense situation like this.
We tracked down Dr. Dennis Kenney, a former officer from Polk County, who is now a professor at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an expert on police chases.
“The formula that police are taught to use is to balance the need for immediate apprehension against the risk to the public,” Dr. Kenney said.
He says even though deputies did not chase the suspect, given the facts before them at the time, they likely could have and the chase would have been justified.
“That would be a relatively high need for immediate apprehension, not relatively, a very high need for immediate apprehension,” Dr. Kenney said. “So the risk they could accept would be substantially higher than probably most pursuits.”
However, there are some restrictions on law enforcement.
“In almost all cases police are prohibited from doing similar behavior so they wouldn’t cross over on the wrong side of the highway for example,” Dr. Kenney said.
Sheriff Judd says he believes the suspect wouldn’t have been able to see the deputy following him.