Thursday, August 16, 2007

Police Actions Questioned in Fatal Crash

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer

A close friend of a man killed in Wednesday's accident on the Capital Beltway and a member of a group that advocates for police accountability asked for information yesterday about what procedures were followed by a Prince George's County police officer before the crash.

Two men were killed and 15 people were injured in the series of collisions about 7 p.m. near the Ritchie Marlboro Road exit, north of Forestville. That night, Prince George's police said the chain of events began when a county police officer pursued a speeding motorcyclist on the Beltway's outer loop.

But on Thursday, police backed off the original account, saying they could not confirm that a pursuit took place. They did not identify the officer driving the cruiser, who has been placed on administrative leave.

Kevin McCarter, 49, of Fort Washington and his friend Sidney Clanton Jr., of Buffalo were killed as they and a third friend were going to a concert in Columbia in a Ford Explorer driven by McCarter. Yesterday, Charles Dangerfield, a longtime friend of McCarter's, said he believes his friend's vehicle was the one struck by the police cruiser and sent over the guardrail into traffic in the inner loop.

"I would like to know, did the officer call the chase in to a supervisor, or did he take the matter into his own hands to catch this dude on the motorcycle?" Dangerfield said.

"Why were they chasing [the motorcyclist]? We've got a couple of people dead. We need some answers," added Redmond Barnes, a member of the People's Coalition for Police Accountability, a group that advocates for reform of the county police force.

A national expert on police chases who co-authored a book on the subject said yesterday that the risks of chases have prompted many departments to greatly restrict the circumstances under which officers can engage in high-speed pursuits.

Many allow them only when a dangerous, armed felon is believed to be fleeing, and only after supervisors have authorized the chase, said John J. Kenney, co-author of "What We Know About Pursuits." The book grew out of a study Kenney and other experts undertook for the Police Executive Research Forum.

"Obviously, any kind of high-speed driving increases the danger to the officer and to anyone else who is around," said Kenney, a former police officer who is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

The risks are particularly high when police chase a motorcyclist, Kenney said. The chase is often futile, because motorcycles reach higher speeds more quickly than do police cruisers and can be maneuvered through traffic, he said.

"A motorcyclist would be able to avoid a police car relatively easily," Kenney said. "If you chase a motorcycle, you'd be increasing the level of danger with a fairly low probability of apprehending someone."

On Wednesday night, county police said an officer pursued a speeding motorcyclist onto the Beltway. The motorcyclist cut in front of a car, and the cruiser slammed into a vehicle, sending it airborne over the median's guardrail and into oncoming traffic.

But Thursday and yesterday, police said they could not confirm a police chase. "We're not even calling it a pursuit," said Lt. April Delabrer of the public information office.

The department's pursuit policy says officers can engage in high-speed chases only if there is probable cause that the suspect was involved in the use of force or was involved in a hit-and-run accident that resulted in death or serious injury. The policy states that an officer's primary concern should be the preservation of life and that apprehending or identifying the suspect is secondary to safety.

The chase policy does not allow officers to pursue someone who is speeding, said Christopher A. Griffiths, a lawyer who has filed dozens of civil lawsuits against the county.

"To do that on the Beltway at rush hour is the height of irresponsibility," Griffiths said. "It seriously boggles the mind."

Other area police departments have similarly restrictive policies. In 1991, when seven people were killed in the District in accidents during or at the end of police chases, D.C. police restricted officers from initiating pursuits in cases that do not involve violent felonies, such as homicide, serious assaults and rape.

A model policy developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police says police pursuits may be justified when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect, if allowed to flee, would present a danger of death or serious injury.

OK, here's the best part... This idiot

Democrat, District 16, Montgomery County

wants to blame the biker for everything, and ban all motorcycles?!?!?...

FORESTVILLE, MD - Saying that so-called bullet bikes or crotch rockets are "wreaking a tremendous amount of havoc on our roadways," one Maryland lawmaker says the state should consider banning the motorcycles from street use.

A crash on the Capital Beltway, on the night of March 30th, killed two people and left 15 others injured. Police say that the accident happened as they were trying to stop one of these speeding motorcycles. The accident and rescue effort caused the highway to be closed in both directions, backing up traffic for miles.

"They are potential death machines in the wrong hands," says Delegate Bill Bronrott of Montgomery County. "I think we should look at the possibility of saying, 'Hey, these are only intended for recreational use and should be used on race courses rather than on public highways."

Bronrott says Maryland State Police are contacting jurisdictions around the country to see how they handle the motorcycles. He says Maryland needs to investigate whether higher penalties would reduce problems associated with the motorcycles and/or whether laws need to be changed. "It is definitely worth looking into whether or not we should totally ban these from our public roads or not," Bronrott says.

Police are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the seven-car, chain-reaction crash that closed the Beltway that night. It started at about 7 p.m. when a Prince George's County police officer spotted a speeding motorcycle and positioned himself to stop it on the inner loop, police said. The motorcycle rider swerved in front of a civilian car and sped away, causing the officer's car to hit the civilian's.

That car rolled down an embankment onto the outer loop, where five other cars crashed into each other. Two people in the car that went over the embankment died. Prince George's County Police have identified them as Kevin McCarter, 40, of Ft. Washington, MD and Sidney Clanton Jr., age unknown, of Buffalo, N.Y. Two of the injured were police officers. One was flown to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. The other was also hospitalized, but his injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Law enforcement sources say the officers involved in the accident had been alerted to a felony in progress, and were given a lookout for the cycle. Police say they were chasing a black, high-speed, nimble racing motorcycle. Officers are looking for the motorcycle and rider believed to be responsible. A video camera in the police cruiser did capture the chase, but police have not provided a more detailed description of the bike, or any license plate information.

O.K.... So here's a scenario, you're speeding along in your car, only 10-15 over the limit. It's you lucky day, a cop decides you're going to get a ticket. During his approach, he runs over a kid he didn't see because you had the focus of his attention. Under the logic above, you are directly responsible for the child's death. Yeah......

Here's Billy's email....


and his site...

Maryland house of Delegates

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