The biggest fringe benefit of a police job is immunity from prosecution. Drunk and reckless driving, no problem. Perjury, that’s “testilying” and everybody does it. Beat up your girlfriend, go outside and cool off.
There are limits. If an innocent bystander dies, investigators may take the death halfway seriously. That happened in Connecticut recently.
Off-duty Danbury police officer Jamie Hodge was working a paid detail. He recognized a passing driver as probably up to no good. He got into his private car and gave chase.
When the dust settled from the high speed chase, a young woman was dead.
His instinct was correct, the driver he chased was up to no good. Among other crimes, the car was stolen. If the driver had died nobody would have cared. Instead, he killed a passenger. A woman passenger. A young woman. An attractive young woman. (De gustibus non disputandum est. That’s Latin for your mileage may vary.) That got media attention, which is the real reason police sometimes investigate one of their own.
The state felt something ought to be done.
Officer Hodge still got special treatment. He wasn’t arrested on the spot or even charged immediately. The investigation took months. He was not charged with manslaughter like a civilian would have been. He was allowed to turn himself in and was promptly released on low bail.
The charge was a single count of violating section 14-222. That is the law that says you can go to jail for driving 86 in a 65 zone. In Connecticut, driving recklessly to endanger life is treated as seriously as speeding. It’s literally the same crime as driving faster than 85 mph.
You may wonder, doesn’t his badge get him off the hook? Like many other states, Connecticut says police can’t break traffic laws when they aren’t using sirens. His private SUV didn’t have a siren. Anyway, siren or no, his department prohibits giving chase for non-violent crimes other than DUI.
Chasing after car thieves tends to get people killed, many of them innocent bystanders. I’ve written about a chase in Springfield, Massachusetts last winter where four people died. Coroners have dug plenty of police bullets out of passengers in stolen cars.
Many departments have decided recovering a stolen car is not worth the potential body count. The risk of loss is factored into your insurance rates. I don’t mind the extra few dollars per month. It may save me from being the innocent bystander.
In the Danbury case the officer was pressured into resigning. That is unusual. Most of the time the department stands by its man. In my area, a bullet in the back of the head is a good shoot. (In the most recent case the town’s insurance company paid off the victim’s family and the officer kept his job.)
There is a technological fix well without our reach. A simple interlock device. If the sirens are off, a police officer’s car can’t exceed the speed limit.
If they aren’t trying to break the law, they have no reason to object.
The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.