The Los Angeles Dog Trainer — not content with having pressured the Los Angeles Police Department to institute unwise changes to its pursuit policy — is now leaning on the California Highway Patrol to do the same. As usual, the paper doesn’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story — especially when that story meshes so well with a pet editorial agenda.
Tuesday’s paper has a story bearing the headline Man Dies in Crash During Car Chase. The headline gets it half right, as a man really did die in a crash. However, the accuracy ends there, as that crash apparently did not occur during a car chase:
The LAPD first described the incident as a pursuit. But CHP Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick said a pursuit was not in progress because the officer never came close enough to the suspect’s car to signal an intent to pull the vehicle over.
Helmick said the car was traveling about 60 mph when it ran a red light on Laurel Canyon Boulevard in front of the CHP patrol unit.
“The officer turned on his lights and headed after the car, but there was not a pursuit,” he said. It was not known whether the suspect knew someone was chasing him, Helmick said.
The collision had occurred by the time the officer arrived at the scene about a mile away.
The story presents no evidence to contradict the CHP spokesman’s assertion that the crash did not take place during a chase. No matter. This inconvenient fact is brushed aside, because it conflicts with the editors’ obvious agenda: taking the CHP to task for its policy of allowing pursuits arising out of infractions.
In furtherance of this goal, the article drags out its oft-repeated fictional tale about how LAPD’s new pursuit policy would have prevented three highly publicized tragic accidents that occurred in 2002:
CHP officers are discouraged from engaging in car chases, except as a result of the most serious infractions, Helmick said.
That’s in contrast to the Los Angeles Police Department, which last year adopted a policy that prohibits the initiation of pursuits resulting from traffic infractions, which can range from speeding to a broken tail light.
The change in the LAPD pursuit policy, which previously gave its officers carte blanche to pursue fleeing suspects, came in response to a series of pursuit-related crashes in 2002.
In those cases, a boy lost an arm in a crash, a woman who had survived the Holocaust died and a young girl was killed.
Although the story implies that these tragedies would not have taken place under the revised policy, this is not true. As I have documented on this blog previously, not one of these incidents would have been prevented by the revised LAPD policy. Two of these pursuits were initiated due to felonies in progress (a stabbing call and a car theft), and the third accident occurred after the pursuing patrol car had backed off, and a helicopter was monitoring the pursued vehicle — just as required by the revised policy.
All three pursuits would have been handled the same way today, under the new policy — though the Dog Trainer consistently implies that the contrary is true.
Details! After all, the facts are not the point. Getting the CHP to conform its pursuit policy to the taste of the Dog Trainer editors — that’s the point.
UPDATE: A couple of people have said to me: “Isn’t this possibly a case of doublespeak by the cops, rather than liberal bias by the Times?” The fact is, of course, that I don’t know what happened in this case.
Just because a police officer had activated his lights doesn’t mean the person knew he was being chased. The patrol car could have been several blocks behind him at all times.
Then again, maybe the guy did know he was being chased. We just don’t know. And there are no facts in the story to shed any light on the situation, either way.
So yes, it is possible that there really was a chase, and the cops are lamely denying it.
My problem is that the Times editors appear to have made up their minds already. The headline says a man died during a car chase. It doesn’t say an “alleged car chase” or allude in any way to the fact that the relevant police agency says there was no chase. It simply asserts that the death occurred during a chase. People who get their news from the headlines — and let’s face it, that’s a lot of people — will simply think: “Another police pursuit caused another death.”
And that’s the point: that’s what the editors want people to think. You can’t look at this situation in isolation. If you click on the link above, you will see that I have established that, in previous situations involving LAPD, the Times has consistently stated or implied that the tragedies would have been avoided if LAPD simply changed its pursuit policy. I have also shown that this is false. In light of this history, you’ll have to forgive me if I am suspicious of the Times‘s spin on this latest story.