Fast and Furious Police

Rudy Omisore comes across yet another police car chase accident.

I was on my lunch break, and this was the Brixton Road, so the police sirens did not seem unusual, until I realised this was different. A police chase had gone horribly wrong.

I later found out that the driver of the crushed black car opposite me had lost control while being chased at high speed by the police, and had crashed into the Nat West bank. A mother and her baby who were walking past at the time were lucky to escape with their lives, although they did have to be taken to hospital for a check up when the ambulance eventually arrived half an hour later.

I also found out that the driver, who was arrested at the scene, had been followed in the first place because he had been ‘driving erratically.’ But the question is whether the chase made him drive not just erratically, but dangerously?

Recent home office figures show that 2000 people are injured each year in accidents involving police cars either chasing people or responding to emergency calls. Moreover, the number of people that are killed during high-speed pursuits by the police has almost tripled in the last four years. Something that may contribute to the frequency of police chases is that fact that, according to Police Complaints Authority (PCA) deputy chairman Ian Bynoe, “At the moment police have virtually unrestricted power to stop a vehicle.” Accidents involving police cars have clearly become a serious problem which should not be ignored.

In my area of South East London, including the section of the Brixton Road where I saw the accident, there are police cars and officers on foot wherever you look. The incidence of crime in the area may be high, but this also means that the frequency of car chases is high, which I believe is a public health issue. In 2013 a 13-year-old girl was killed as a result of a high-speed police chase in New Cross. The police had been pursuing a car when it crashed into a Volkswagen Polo carrying a family of 4: the parents and their teenage son and daughter. The girl was pronounced dead at the scene and the rest of her family were taken to hospital. And why were the police chasing the car? Because its number plate had come up on an in-car computer system that targets uninsured drivers and other suspected minor offenders.

My worry is that some police like a chase, and that they are entering into a pursuit when the reasons aren’t good enough, and therefore risk causing more harm than good. High-speed chases should only occur if the suspect is a real threat to the public.