WTVM Editorial 6/16/17: Dangerous pursuits

(WTVM) - The innocent bystander who died a short time ago in a high-speed chase in Phenix City was Frank McLemore.

I knew Frank. He was a highly talented and respected broadcast engineer, who worked with a local radio group, for the F.C.C. and with the Georgia Association of Broadcasters.

His untimely death as a result of a suspect in a stolen car fleeing police is tragic evidence of what can happen when a police pursuit ends in a fatal crash.

According to the International Association of Police Chiefs, 91 percent of all chases result from non-violent crimes.

The National Transportation Safety Administration estimates one person dies in that type of crash every day and one-third of those deaths are of innocent drivers, unaware of the drama unfolding on the streets that will change their lives forever.

Police officers themselves die in pursuits at the rate of about one every six weeks.

But we really don't know how many fatalities result from high-speed chases because there is no mandate that police must report them to federal record keepers.

We always support the police in apprehending felons and we respect the split second judgments those officers have to make under highly stressful conditions.

That's why we also support the position of a group called Pursuit Safety.

They urge limiting police pursuits to only the most violent and dangerous offenders. According to their research, that criteria would eliminate nine out of 10 chases and cut fatalities dramatically - of both suspects and the innocent.

Perhaps one part of Frank McLemore's lasting legacy, besides a life well lived, will be to shine a light on the issue of police pursuits which could lead to more narrow criteria for chasing a fleeing suspect in the first place.

General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to hsteuart@wtvm.com or write to:

WTVM Editorial Committee

1909 Wynnton Road

Columbus, GA 31906

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