MIDDLE ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Saturday night’s police pursuit is an incident that needs a careful look, so say family and friends of the three people killed in Middle Island.
CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reports on Suffolk County’s police chase protocol.
Failure to stop at a stop sign led to a five-mile police chase from Yaphank to Middle Island. The teen driver evaded police and crashed into an innocent couple, Jerome and Randee Weingarten, killing them, along with a passenger in the suspect’s fleeing car.
The three deaths came one year after five were killed in Ridge following a heated pursuit. An OnStar navigation system activated a stolen car and officers gave chase. Should they have instead followed the car’s tracking system?
When asked what is police procedure involving pursuits, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said, “In this instance, we had circumstances that permitted a pursuit when we had an individual fleeing an arrest who was driving in a reckless manner who appeared to be under the influence.”
Web Extra: Suffolk County Police On Chase That Ended In Fatal Crash:
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration confirmed results of a USA Today study that shows since 1995 Suffolk County ranks first in New York state in fatalities stemming from high-speed accidents related to police pursuits of crime suspects.
“Based upon the number of deaths and injuries in Suffolk County, that decision-making process is flawed,” attorney Kenneth Mollins said.
Mollins, who has won judgments against the county, said a police chase must be justified. The manner of pursuit must be reasonable. If not, “The county will pay to the tune of millions and millions of dollars,” he said.
The U.S. Justice Department has called pursuits the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities, and is urging departments to adopt strict policies.
Wysteria Belford said she wished the police pursing her son had a dash cam rolling. She apologetically said two families are now grieving with unanswered questions.
“They need to think of other ways of how to do this because this is not working. We are losing too many people,” Belford said.
Suffolk Police have promised a thorough investigation.
CBS2 is awaiting results of our Freedom of Information Law request from Suffolk County Police. In the past it stated pursuits must be ended if they endanger officers or the public.