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Damaged car owner wants police pursuits banned in neighborhoods

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POSTED November 17, 2009 3:37 a.m.

A Manteca woman complains the Saturday night high speed pursuit by Manteca Police left her without car after it was rear ended while parked in front of her home in the 200 block of Frances Street.

Linda Allott, who says she is seven months pregnant,  said the fleeing fugitive had no insurance and hers had recently run out.  She’s in a quandary as to who is going to pay for her damages.  She chided the policy of allowing police pursuits within residential areas of Manteca, saying it’s not safe.

Of major concern was the chance that she and her 5-year-old daughter could have been getting out of their 2000 Toyota Camry at the curb and becoming victims of the car being chased by police as it screeched around the corner.  Her car received damage to the rear left quarter panel and to the rear bumper, police said.

The other car that was damaged had been parked in a neighbor’s driveway where it was rear-ended by the fleeing vehicle – punching a large hole in the garage door.

While the 15-mile, 18-minute pursuit reached 100 miles an hour going northbound on Highway 99, speeds within the city’s residential areas were recorded at 50 to 55 miles an hour.  Still, Allott feels that is double the 25 mile per hour speed limit, and shouldn’t be allowed.

Manteca Police Chief David Bricker said his department policy is very conservative when it comes to sanctioning pursuits on the city’s streets noting  more police officers are killed in traffic crashes than in any other way.

Bricker lauded Sgt. Mike Sexon for his management of the pursuit that began at Commerce Drive and Yosemite Avenue at 11:18 p.m. and circled around city streets meeting with extremely light traffic ending some minutes before midnight.

“It’s always a balancing act, and the courts get more restrictive all the time with pursuits.  So we are trying to be as safe as possible,” he added.  

Bricker said that it is not uncommon for an officer to call off his own pursuit even before the sergeant on duty cancels it.

The chief said an in-car video of a chase is reviewed after every pursuit and the supervisors are required to ensure that department policy is followed.  He noted that the video of the Saturday night pursuit, taken from the lead Dodge Charger, showed a well-handled operation including officers pitting the suspect vehicle at Yosemite and Grant avenues.

Bricker said his department provides annual updates in pursuit training for his officers, because the state Police Officers Standards in Training (POST) regards pursuit driving as a perishable skill.  He said that some departments have a more restrictive pursuit policy or they restrict them altogether.

The problem surfaces when the criminal element learns that the police are not going to chase them if they run from a crime scene – that’s just what they will do, he noted.

There are three eventualities to every pursuit:  the driver gets away, he crashes or he runs into a situation where he abandons the vehicle.   In the latter case,  a fleeing driver often attempts to elude police by driving out of town and into  a rural orchard causing police to set up a perimeter until they can flush the driver out.

“The last thing we want to do is to force someone into a crash,” Bricker said.

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