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Challenging the rules of the road for MSP chases

Posted: 10:36 PM, Mar 31, 2016
Updated: 2016-04-01 08:58:03-04

They are always dangerous. They are always controversial.

Dozens have been killed in high-speed police pursuits. Now one Michigan lawmaker is fighting to slam on the brakes, but state police are fighting back.

While they can have a bad outcome, police say the chases are necessary.

“I’d like to say I can end every pursuit and no one would ever get hurt,” says MSP Lt. Mike Shaw. “But that’s not something we can do right now.”

Earlier this month, a family of five was devastated in a high-speed pursuit crash. It turned out the driver was chased only because he had no drivers license.

Malaysia, 6, was seriously injured. 

“We later found out at the hospital she had a brain injury, she was bleeding in the brain,” says her mother Mary.

Mary has a cracked rib. Her one-year-old niece was also injured. The infant's father also sustained severe internal injuries.

“Kidney failure, bleeding inside. He had to have his spleen removed. He’s on a ventilator still,” says Mary.

The trouble peaked in 2014, 27 people were killed in pursuit crashes, according to state police. Last year, 21 were killed, nine were in Wayne County.

Flint has been the hotbed of hot pursuits, 270 crashes since 2005. Including one in 2014 that started because the driver was not wearing a seat belt.

The chase continued through a red light and the T-bone crash that occured killed 63-year-old Jacqueline Nichols.

“One, two, three, four, five times over and over again the failures keep coming,” State Representative Sheldon Neeley told 7 Action News.

Representative Neeley last year introduced House Bill 4233 that would make state police comply with local pursuit policies.

In Detroit, hot pursuits are only done with felonies in progress and a there's an imminent danger to the public.

State police Lt. Mike Shaw says troopers can’t follow every policy in every local jurisdiction on the fly and when they start a hot pursuit, a supervisor is immediately on the case.

“Once they radio in, all of our radio traffic is frozen, the supervisor comes on the radio and says they’re monitoring the pursuit,” says Shaw.

Rep. Neeley has tried for more than a year to get a House committee hearing. State police have told Republicans in control they don’t want it.

The Lt. wants the Rep. to send a different message.

“We need him to say, ‘don’t run from the police, we’ve got to stop’,” says Shaw.

The family we spoke with would like the opportunity to tell their story at a committee hearing.

“To have to deal with this every day, to see our loved ones in a hospital and not know the outcome,” says Mary. “I would ask them if this was their family to put themselves in my shoes and ask what would they like to be done.”

“There’s nothing I can say to that family that would justify anything,” says Lt. Shaw. “If the person in the car had just committed a murder and they were running from police, and struck that vehicle, they would still be mad at law enforcement. And I’m ok with that. I understand that.”

Another thing to keep in mind, the troopers who drive these cars are humans as well.  They do not want to live with a disastrous outcome.