Stop It, For The Children

Not only do car chases look really cool in movies, but they rarely end with innocent children being killed by a police cruiser.  Not so in real life. Not so in Detroit.

“[The police] were right on their rear, the police car bumped their tail a little bit, and the car flew up in the air,” the friend said. “There was no need for the police to be that close. I yelled ‘WATCH OUT’ but it was too late. When the car hit them, both of them just looked at me. They screamed. It just keeps re-playing in my head.”

Two children were dead.

Makiah Jackson (L’il Mama), 3, and her brother Michaelangelo Jackson, 6, were killed June 24, in front of their home on Nottingham.

And still the chase continued.

Three children at the second home, Darius Andrews, Jr., 3, Isaiah Williams, 5, and Zyaire Gardner, 7, were critically injured.

What heinous fear of harm gave rise to this chase?

Craig said at first that the chase began when police saw an occupant in the car with a gun, then said June 25 that there was no gun, that the chase started when the police “made eye contact” with the two men in the car.

After killing two, critically injuring three others, the police officers, whose names have not been released, first pitched the “occupant with a gun” justification for pursuit, because then they would have an explanation for pursuing a car on a busy urban street under the guise of its occupants posing a threat of deadly force to others. It was, as later conceded, nonsense.

What was not nonsense was that the cops “made eye contact,” a violation of the tacit rule that non-cops avert their eyes from police, an act of submissiveness to acknowledge the officers’ superiority. Not this time, which told the officers that they cannot let the occupants of this car go. The official response was that the department was responsible for the actions of its rogue officers:

Detroit police chief James Craig’s version of events keeps changing. On the night of the pursuit, he said that the three “Special Ops” police in the car had suspended their chase when they “lost sight of the car.” After numerous witnesses reported that was not the case, Craig said a supervisor had ordered them to stop the chase, but that has not been documented.

This is consistent with the departmental policy as to pursuit.

“Members involved in a pursuit must question whether the seriousness of the violation warrants continuation of the pursuit. A pursuit shall be discontinued when, in the judgment of the primary unit, there is a clear and present danger to the public which outweighs the need for immediate apprehension of the violator. Officers must keep in mind that a vehicle pursuit has the same potential for serious injury or death as the use of fatal force. . . .Officers must place the protection of human life above all other considerations.”

Notably, the first paragraph essentially leaves the determination of whether and when to terminate pursuit to the cop doing the pursuing, who by definition thought pursuit was a good idea in the first place, has the juice running through him during the pursuit, and possesses the greatest incentive not to let the bad guy get away.

The second paragraph is cautionary.  Like most policies, not to mention consent agreements, it’s filled with flowery language, reminding officers to adore unicorns and rainbows before killing children on the street.  As if there was an alternative policy option that said, “pursue at all costs, even if it means killing dozens of innocent babies on the street, because we can never let the bastard get away with it.”

But are the “special ops” (assuming this refers to cops whose operation is not to kill children by running them over) cops to blame, or is it the fault of the driver of the car they were pursuing? Assuming that the pursuit was initiated because of a violation of the unwritten rule that young black men are not to make eye contact with cops, except at their peril, what follows has problems regardless of anything else.

That aside, pursuit in general raises two problems: first, that the party being pursued flees at a high rate of speed and in a dangerous manner because he is being pursued.  Stop the pursuit and the flight stops. To the extent that this suggests the fleeing party will “get away with it,” thus incentivizing people to flee from police, bear in mind that they’re in a car, with a license plate. We have ways to find them, both by radio to other officers and magic databases where we keep information about license plates.

But pursuit involves two cars, not just the one driven by the party fleeing. As here, it was the second car, the police cruiser, that caused the car to kill and maim children. The point being that pursuit is an incredibly dangerous thing, not just to the parties involved but innocent bystanders, who may be kids.

In the movies, car chases are very cool, and there are few things more macho for cops than to drive fast.  In real life, they are crazy dangerous, far too often resulting in death or serious injury.  Here, the dead and injured were innocent children. No matter how bad the dudes in the fleeing car may have been (though here they weren’t exactly bad dudes at all), they weren’t bad enough to justify killing two children and maiming three others. No one is that bad. The car chases must stop.

As for the cops driving the offending cruiser, whose names have not been released and  who may or may not be subject to pending disciplinary action or worse, they have the blood of children on their hands.  Over nothing.

4 thoughts on “Stop It, For The Children

  1. st

    The link to VoiceofDetroit doesn’t work.

    If the eyewitness account that the police “bumped their tail a little bit” is accurate, the police actions are even more outrageous. The “bump and run” maneuver is illegal in stock car racing because it is very dangerous. Police are trained in a similar “PIT maneuver.” These tactics are intended to make the fleeing driver lose control of the car. It was the loss of control that killed and injured the children.

    1. morgan sheridan

      The Voice of Detroit link is working now. Other news sources including The Detroit JNews are reporting the driver of the chased car, a petty criminal, is the one being charged with murder. I suspect the cops will walk away with a slap on the hand, if that.

      1. SHG Post author

        Not only is the charge of murder for the driver unsurprising, but a likely legally valid charge. Which has no bearing on the wrongfulness of the commencement and continuance of pursuit.

        1. morgan sheridan

          You’re right. And from the “feelz” perspective, I sure the hell wish the cops choice to pursue and continue such pursuit had some penalty/negative outcome put on them too. I read and re-read their policy on pursuit and I struggle to see how a pursuit in a residential neighborhood is anything other than an immediate danger to all in that neighborhood.

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