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December 29, 2010

How Vermont Police Train for High Speed Chases

Photo Today's issue of Seven Days is full of year-end updates to stories we published during 2010. Unfortunately, a story we published back in August — about how Vermont police train for high speed chases — is relevant once again.

On Sunday, Burlington resident Kaye Borneman, 43, was killed in a car crash not far from our office, at the intersection of Main and St. Paul Streets (pictured). The SUV that hit her was allegedly driven by a man who was fleeing the police.

An article in today's Burlington Free Press describes how Burlington and state police will review the crash, and the preceeding pursuit.

As Ken Picard notes in his August story, the Vermont police academy recently launched a new course that helps train officers how to respond in high-speed chase situations. Writes Ken:

Why is the state investing so much time and money in teaching police officers to drive better? Simply put, because high-speed driving, especially chases, is the most dangerous thing they do. Each year, more officers die in motor-vehicle accidents than in shootings — at a nationwide rate of about one officer every six weeks.

They’re not the only ones getting killed in chase situations. A 2004 study by the University of Washington’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center found that, of the approximately 300 Americans killed each year in police pursuits, nearly one third are innocent bystanders. That’s an average of three victims every week.

Our condolences to Borneman's friends and family.

Photo from 12/30/10 showing Vermont State Police at the crash scene.

Also According to The Free Press:

"Dowd sped away from police after being pulled over for failing to observe stop signs at two Old North End intersections, police said. He ran eight red traffic lights before colliding with Borneman’s sedan at the St. Paul Street intersection."

The cops chased him through eight red lights, and then he finally killed somebody. There's got to be a better way. What's the worst thing that might have happened if they stopped chasing him, say after red light number five? He might have killed somebody? Clearly he did not mean to stop, which makes me wonder- were the cops chasing him with the intention to ram into him? Were they hoping he'd run out of gas? Yes they got him, but at a terrible cost.

I know it's taboo, and people will interpret this sentiment as craven weakness - but maybe sometimes it's better to give up.

Better still, chase criminals with surveillance cameras and detective work instead of cars. I'd imagine they got his plates and a description of his car. maybe pictures too. And perhaps this stupid person would have just gone home. They might have been able to catch him safely later, instead of frighten him into a deadly panic.

I'm not saying it's the cops' fault. I'm just saying our society could benefit from self-reflection. Is 'winning now, no matter what' what we value?

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