LETTER TO EDITOR — Concerning the June 4 Deadly Police Chase Accident

July 2, 2018

All those armchair Common Council go-getters who wanted to see the cops start engaging in chases (‘to protect us all better’) had their day June 7 when MPD Officer Charles Irvine Jr. died as the result of one.

Every urban squad chase is insane. Almost none are worth the risk. And this tragedy will repeat, maybe wipe out a family next time.

Chief Flynn saw this coming and tried his best to prevent it. He, in part, left because of the overall issue.

I am a retired cop who saw plenty of deadly chases and regretfully engaged in many chases. I backed up Flynn in my letters to the Bay View Compass and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. No praise to me, I was merely saying that those who know chases, other than those on TV where they seem to end well, saw this coming.

The city will pay plenty for this tragedy and will pay more in the future, unless those who make bad decisions from their safe city hall locations wake up and put an end to this.

There are other ways to deal with problems that lead to potential chases such as enlightened, hardcore car-seizure policies, drastic penalties, etc. These are the answer—not cops who die doing what chair-warmers want.

There will likely be a lot of useless statements about “what a tragedy” and “reviewing policies,” etc. That will be a lot of hot air.

Stop the chases, period.

Flynn was right. He knew the score and the streets. Common Council members know neither.

It seems apparent that officers are not being intensively prepared for police vehicle chases. Highway Patrol organizations around the country have intensive, real time, extended-period actual pursuit training. And their pursuits are usually on the open highway, not racing through urban areas, at maybe 90 mph, where pedestrians, buildings, tight corners, etc. abound.

After years of no chases, suddenly the green light for them is on. What meaningful training have they received for such extreme danger? Are they prepared for doing what trained professional race drivers would well fear, racing through populated cities? Race drivers racing off track in Europe (Grand Prix) are not talking with excitement on a radio and worrying about bullets coming at them. Police chases can easily cause intense tunnel vision for officers and tunnel vision is dangerous at any speed.

Racecar drivers are well trained and well protected with various types of safety devices.

My past experience is that few officers wear seatbelts, and I never saw any enforcement of wearing them by MPD. Squad cars are inherently dangerous with cage bars, shotguns next to the car seat, computers protruding from the dash mounted on metal plates, etc.

Unless officers receive meaningful training under actual conditions that they would experience in a chase in the urban environment, they are unequipped to engage in highly dangerous pursuits.

It is dangerous for the officers and for the public.

I am speaking from a background of my knowledge of many police chases beginning in 1973 and I regret that. I saw enough of those that resulted in tragic disaster for innocents.

Turning on the green light for chases with no thought given to serious training is negligence. There needs to be a serious immediate inquiry as to this issue and a moratorium on chases until cops are trained and ready for them.

It appears the Common Council and the Fire and Police Commission might not have exercised necessary discretion when suddenly allowing MPD to reinstitute pursuits and the extreme dangers they entail.

Alderman Zielinski led the charge to limit Chief Flynn’s discretionary policy, including Flynn’s prohibition of vehicle chases. Flynn resigned not long after that change.

Chases resumed and within six months, we have the death of a young officer who was killed in a chase, Officer Matthew Schulze was seriously injured, and a squad car and all its equipment were destroyed.

All this, for what? Going after a reckless driver?

When Ald. Zielinski led that charge, what did he also do to ensure, as best able, that the change would not result in a fatal disaster?

This tragedy revealed that Chief Flynn was correct and Zielinski, et al, were wrong.

Michael J. McGuire
Bay View

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