Under present law, the fact that law enforcement personnel pursue an actual or suspected violator of a law or ordinance who flees from pursuit does not render the law enforcement personnel, or the employers of the law enforcement personnel, liable for injuries to a third party proximately caused by the fleeing party unless the conduct of the law enforcement personnel was negligent and that negligence was a proximate cause of the injuries to the third party. This bill increases the measure of negligence that law enforcement personnel must engage in while pursuing a suspected violator, in order for such personnel or their employer to be liable for injuries to a third party proximately caused by the fleeing party, from ordinary negligence to gross negligence.
This bill also prohibits employers of law enforcement personnel from taking disciplinary action against law enforcement personnel for a pursuit of a fleeing suspect, unless such pursuit violated pursuit policies established by the law enforcement agency that employed such law enforcement personnel at the time of the pursuit.
For more on the Bill, click HERE.
Below is my letter to the members of the Subcommittee:
Members of the Tennessee House Criminal Practice Subcommittee,
This Wednesday (April 7), you will take on HB 2907. The Bill wishes to set the bar to which law enforcement is responsible for the negative consequences of police pursuits from “negligent and that negligence” to “grossly negligent and that gross negligence.”
PursuitWatch.org, which advocates for safer and smarter police pursuits, urges members of the Subcommittee to oppose the Bill.
While my organization understands the level of freedom law enforcement officers must be granted to protect the public, requiring the presence of gross negligence is simply too liberal of a concession.
Unfortunately, sometimes law enforcement forgets their job is not necessarily to catch the bad guy, but rather it is to protect the public. In 2001, my then 20-year-old sister was an innocent victim of a police pursuit. While the criminal who refused to stop for the police was imprisoned, our family also held comfort in knowing that the department and officers involved - whose negligence compounded a series of bad decisions by the criminal - were also held responsible for their actions.
Let me be clear: PursuitWatch.org does not wish to minimize the ability for law enforcement to complete their job. We simply feel that the passage of HB 2907 allows law enforcement to place themselves and the public in grave danger, without having to be accountable for their actions.