Yesterday, NOPD Commissioner Shawn Ferguson fired four police officers involved in a deadly chase and crash that claimed the lives of the two teenagers being chased and a woman that was a customer in the beauty salon that the teenagers crashed into. An NOPD investigation concluded that the fired officers had ignored department chase policy and turned off their patrol cars' in-board dash cameras. According to Matt Sledge of the Times-Picayune Advocate, the firings "underscored the zero-tolerance attitude of police leaders under the department's federal consent decree." Two other officers were also given lengthy suspensions without pay.
On the night of the crash, which occurred in the Broadmoor neighborhood, the six officers pursued a suspected stolen car after fled from a traffic stop in Central City. The two teenagers inside the car (16-year-old Byron “B.J.” Wilson Jr. and 14-year-old Chimelu Collins) were killed when the vehicle they were driving slammed into a beauty salon. The flames that subsequently consumed the salon claimed the life of a woman inside.
The federal consent decree that NOPD is bound by clearly prohibits such chases unless the persons inside the car are suspected of violent crimes (which Wilson and Collins were not). This also makes good sense and practical policy. Car chases involving the police and suspected perpetrators of crime are inherently fraught with peril. There is, in my mind, little sense in pursing persons not suspected of violent crimes. The potential for harm simply outweighs the potential benefits to the community. I will grant that situations like the one that arose in this case are not common. However, the potential loss of human life is always present in such chases. That is why police departments across the country have begun altering their chase policies in ways similar to the NOPD policy. Some might argue that Wilson and Collins "got what they deserved," but clearly the lady that died in the beauty salon did not get what she deserved. If I were her family, I would obtain the services of a good civil lawyer. If her next of kin sue the NOPD, I cannot imagine that they would lose.
Furthermore, I believe that NOPD's chase policy protects the lives of police officers. High-speed chases are inherently dangerous for ALL persons involved, including the police officers chasing the suspected perpetrators. In this case, the fired/disciplined police officers flaunted department policy and, (perhaps) more egregiously, turned off their dash cams while undertaking the chase. They got what they deserved.