Deputies talk policies, decision-making during police chases

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

Monday, Jan. 14, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Four people are dead and at least three are injured after three separate car accidents following police chases in the past week.

The first happened last Wednesday in North Augusta. Two brothers died after crashing into a tree while fleeing police. Just a few days later, two more died following a police pursuit in Sardis. And on Monday morning, three were sent to the hospital after a crash in Aiken County.

Officers say chases are very common.

"I've been in a lot of chases. I couldn't even put a number on it," said Jason Singletary, a deputy with the Traffic Safety Division of the Richmond County Sheriffs Office.

On Friday night he was involved in a chase down busy streets -- from Washington Road down Berckmans Road and ending on Wheeler Road.

"He was driving at a high rate of speed, we stated going down the hills and started driving on the wrong side of the road," Singletary said.

That's when he decided to call it off saying, "I could see headlights on top of the hill, so I knew there was cars coming, so I terminated it."

It's a question each deputy faces every time someone begins to run: Will chasing them put other people at risk?

"Each deputy has to take into consideration, use common sense, what he's stopping the vehicle for and what's going on," said Lt. Amelio Lamkin, division head of the Traffic Safety Division.

For an officer, you never know who you're stopping, so catching that suspect is a top priority.

"They could be anything from running from suspended license to having a warrant on them to having just committed mass murder or a bank robbery, you just don't ever know," Singletary said.

As a chase crosses a state line, the rules change a little bit. The pursuit can only be continued if it involves a felony.

"If you're going 20 mph over the speed limit while fleeing from a deputy, it is a felony, so we will chase a felony across a state line," Lamkin said.

Deputies are trained to handle these situations, but they say learning when to stop a chase comes with experience.

"To know when enough is enough, when it outweighs it," Singletary said. "It's just way too dangerous and it's just common sense and it comes with experience."

Experience deputies say they wish they never had to have.

"Just pull over," Lamkin said. "It's not worth your life, it's not worth our life, it's not worth the public's life. If you get blue lights put on you, just pull over and deal with the consequences."

Deputies still haven't caught the suspect from the chase on Friday night and say they still don't know why he was running.

As for the safety of the suspect, they say if someone runs, then they take full responsibility for what happens. They said the suspect has a choice: Pull over and risk going to jail or risk losing their life in a chase.

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