Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Spectacle of the High-Speed Car Chase

image:: vidcap of Bentley involved in high speed chase and suicide with handgun, February 2009

Los Angeles can be a strange and surreal place. The local stations typically treat high-speed car chases as "breaking news" and will interrupt programming {depending on the time of day} to televise them. The number of traffic helicopters in the area enable instant coverage of this brand of infotainment. I recall this being prevalent in the 1990s and the slow-speed O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco chase was an iconic moment of 1994.

I've always questioned the practice of high-speed chases that ramp up the adrenaline of law enforcement and those being chased. Typically, what the viewer sees is the theatrics of the chase and the suspect apprehended or shot. The psychology of a desperate character isn't always rational, so the few decades of televised chases may prime those who feel they're behind the 8-ball to flee—as seen on TV.

The above vidcap was the final scene of a chase that ended in a gunshot suicide of a businessman who allegedly assaulted his girlfriend. While this clip doesn't show the actual gunshot, it sets up the final chapter of this chase from last year::

A few days ago, I read a story where fleeing suspects being chased by the police killed a 6-year old. The officers saw what they believed to be a drug deal. This time, the chase was short and the suspects lost control and crashed, but the damage was done. 

Some say that fleeing suspects often get what they deserve. Often commentators on these chases have a bit of a "wag of the finger" in their tone. Like I said above, typically the only party that gets it is the suspect; typically innocent bystanders aren't injured or killed. My opinion is that a culture is being created by law enforcement and the media that fosters the flight mentality. While police protocols outline balancing the seriousness of the offense and the lives of themselves and the public. The collateral damage of a dead child bystander is just the sobering incident that should get law enforcement to think about its policies and what warrants chasing a suspect who isn't likely to be thinking rationally and is in a state of panic. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that changing the institutional norms of law enforcement are often an uphill battle and would have to come from the top.

Song:: Paul Oakenfeld 'Ready Steady Go'
Twitterversion:: [blog] LA = highspeed car chase capital {media+police protocols} & death of 6 y.o. is sobering outcome of flight response. @Prof_K

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