Monday, April 14, 2008

Questions remain in Snohomish County

Did the officer involved in a pursuit that led to the death of the fleeing suspect, an 18 year-old high school student, use the PIT maneuver?

Was it justified in this case?

Herald Writer Jackson Holtz asked Ron Kelley, a friend of PursuitWatch, his opinion:

The PIT generally is most effective between 25 and 45 mph, said Ron Kelley, a retired police driving instructor from the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, near Orlando, Fla.

Anything slower and the car being bumped doesn't have enough force to stall out when spun around, he said. At higher speeds the results are unpredictable.

Police haven't said how fast Privrasky was driving when the deputy attempted the PIT.

Nakao said he was driving behind the chase, which was moving fast.

"It's not every day you see a police chase like that," Nakao said.

He said he saw Privrasky's car leave the road and couldn't tell whether the deputy made contact with the car.

As police reconstruct the crash, they'll likely weigh everything the deputy had to take into consideration that night before attempting the PIT, Kelley said.

While the retired deputy is careful not to second-guess the deputy's decision, questions remain unanswered.

While the pursuit started because Privrasky was speeding, it became a felony when he did not pull over for the officer and tried to flee. Sheriff's deputies are allowed to chase vehicles only when a felony has been committed.

Kelley wondered whether Privasky's initial speeding warranted the risk of using the PIT, or could there have been another option? "Could he have been identified and arrested a later time at a later place?" he asked.

Captain Travis Yates of the Tulsa PD, another friend of PursuitWatch, was also quoted:

The PIT maneuver is an effective way to stop the bad guys, said Travis Yates, a captain with the Tulsa (Okla.) Police Department who runs PoliceDriving.com.

Like any police tool, it's not without some risk to both the pursued and the police, said Yates, who is considered an expert on PIT maneuvers.

"Anytime a law enforcement action ends in a fatality, it's a tragedy on both sides," Yates said. "We have to always remember that police don't go out on the streets and intend on going on pursuits. For some reason some people decide they want to flee."


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