For the second time in just over a month, a police chase has come to a tragic conclusion.

The most recent happened on January 15 and ended after a vehicle rammed a house in the 600 block of Stanton Road. Killed was the 34-year-old driver. Two passengers – aged 13 and 45 – were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Christopher Edwards, whose sister owns the home that was damaged by the speeding car, wants more answers about the lawsuits and city policies about them.

He also argued that policing in the city’s First Ward, a predominantly black area of ​​Mobile southeast of downtown, is “aggressive.”

“That car was going 80 mph,” said Vigor High School vice-principal Edwards. “It’s aggressive.”

He raised his concerns before Mobile City Council on Tuesday, and his remarks sparked a discussion about high-speed police chases and how law enforcement handles sensitive situations involving innocent bystanders.

The discussion comes at a time when state lawmakers are seeking to increase criminal penalties for people who flee police and major metropolitan cities across the United States are reconsidering their prosecution policies.

“This is the second person to die in a police chase and they really want to know what’s going on,” Edwards said, referring to residents near where the chase ended. “A lot of people in the neighborhood want to know, and in the city want to know (why the chase happened). I want to know. When this happens literally at your front door, you expect people to answer the questions they have.

Searching for answers

Laurent Battiste

Lawrence Battiste, Executive Director of Public Safety for the City of Mobile, speaks to local media Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at Government Plaza in Mobile, Ala. (John Sharp/jsharp@al.com).

Lawrence Battiste, the city’s executive director of public safety, said the city is transparent about its pursuit policy, noting its availability on the city’s website.

He said he had a conversation with Edwards about the Jan. 15 lawsuit and invited him to watch body camera footage taken at the crash scene. Edwards said he plans to watch the footage with Battiste.

“Each chase has a (different) dynamic,” Battiste said. “Speed ​​is one that a supervisor can end a pursuit for. Every time we have an incident like this, we go back and review the policy and see if we can make a change.

Battiste said the agency’s pursuit policy is accredited by the Law Enforcement Agencies Accreditation Commission and is considered one of the “top standards.”

But Edwards said more communication should have taken place at the scene. He said police provided few answers and little advice to his sister, whose home was damaged after the vehicle rammed it.

“I’m not here to call anybody,” Edwards said, adding that after the chase, “no one from town came up and said, ‘I’m going to put you in a hotel until that this is located.

He added: “Where is she supposed to spend the night? Is there a liaison to get her through this period? When I asked these questions, no one could help her.

Battiste told council the city is ready to help.

“I asked him from the start that if there was any inconvenience his sister was going through as a result of (problems) with insurance companies and if she is displaced, to contact me so that I can determine what I can do on an administrative level to help the family during this process,” Battiste said.

Edwards also said he was concerned about Digital Siren, an app that warns people within the radius of a police chase to avoid the area. Battiste said last week that the pursuit alert app was “running into some trouble” and that he was unsure how “widely used it is” in Mobile.

The concerns raised by Edwards also come a week after Battiste, when asked about the Jan. 15 accident and the city’s prosecution policies, said too few people were holding the driver accountable for his behavior.

“We have a (34) year old gentleman who chose to run away from the officers,” Battiste said last week. “There is no police procedure that can remedy this behavior. We must hold people who choose to flee law enforcement accountable for their behaviors. »

Councilman Scott Jones on Tuesday agreed and said city administrators should “act with caution” about overhauling the city’s police pursuit policy “because of people who willfully and flagrantly violate the law”.

“We have to be careful when we talk about policies and procedures around speed chases,” Jones said. “What I know of a fact is that each of these cases could have been avoided if the abuser had stopped.”

Councilman Joel Daves also said city officials “have to be very careful” when it comes to “guessing the police.”

“Police have to make split-second decisions on a wide variety of incidents,” he said. “Their main objective is to protect the public.”

‘What could we do better’

The January 15 chase came just over a month after a chase in early December ended in tragedy when a 19-year-old passenger in the back seat was killed after the driver led the police in a chase that was eventually halted due to weather conditions and high speeds.

The driver, Jh’Isaiah Franlkin, 18, of Prichard, faces charges of vehicular homicide and attempted flight or evasion of an officer. He is due to appear before a judge on Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

“We had one last month, and now this month,” Edwards said. “We’re about to host Mardi Gras. The patterns are going to continue if we don’t come to the table and sit down and say, ‘What could we do better, and if that happens, that’s what we’ll do.”

Councilor Cory Penn said he felt Edwards’ questions were effective in generating community conversation on a topic that “a lot of citizens just don’t know about”.

Said Edwards, “I feel like it’s a start. Of course, everyone has their own perspective on what happened (in the January 15 lawsuit). I appreciate that the board and manager Battiste are trying to help me with some questions I would like to know.

Alabama has drawn attention for deadly police chases. In 2017, the website 24/7wallstreet.com ranked Alabama as the #1 state for having the deadliest police pursuits per capita.

Two years ago, the city of Birmingham was hit with a $3.2 million verdict by a Jefferson County judge after one of its officers, in an authorized police chase, rammed into a passers-by vehicle. Five people were injured.

State lawmakers could increase penalties for people who flee and evade police. A proposal, expected to be introduced in the spring legislative session, would make fleeing and escaping from police a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Evading the police in Alabama is currently a misdemeanor.

Officials in major cities like Atlanta, Chicago and Cincinnati recently instituted policies limiting authorities on when they can pursue a vehicle. Cincinnati Police Department policy, implemented earlier this year, limits prosecution to only “violent crimes.”

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