Police Pursuit Commission Holds Biloxi Public Hearing

One South Mississippi police officer calls it "the most frightening thing" he's ever faced during more than twenty years in law enforcement.

He was describing a high speed police pursuit.

A state commission is holding public hearings to decide if there's a need for a standardized police pursuit policy in Mississippi.  The final meeting was held Thursday in Biloxi.

The State of Mississippi requires police officers to receive fifty four hours of firearms training, along with testing every five years. But those same officers are required to receive just twenty two hours of driver training, despite the fact police officers are far more likely to be killed in a car accident than by a bullet.

The commission is concerned specifically with those accidents that result from high speed pursuits.

They may be riveting television, but high speed police pursuits are something most officers dread. High speed chases often court danger and require split second decision making by the officer.

Larry McCoy is with a group called, "Victims of Police Pursuits". He testified at the public hearing.

"I believe in preventative medicine. What I want to do is do everything we can to prevent the chase. And one of the ways I believe we do that is to make it a felony," said McCoy.

Punishment for the fleeing suspect is just one of several issues the commission must consider. Requirements for police training are another.

"What I find disturbing more than anything is that the current requirement for a certified police officer is only twenty two hours of driver training his entire career," said police training instructor, Joe Pevey.

Police often end up the victims in high speed pursuits. You'll recall when Jackson County Sheriff's deputy Bruce Evans was killed when a fleeing suspect slammed into his patrol car at the end of a high speed chase.

"This is my personal opinion. There ought to be at least a one year mandatory sentence for initiating a major pursuit. And that would be the pursuits that I think we all recognize we're talking about," said Pevey.

This was the last of four public hearings around the state. The committee chairman says the group will make specific recommendations from several general suggestions it's received.

"That there needs to be training. That there needs to be a policy. That there needs to be education to the public. That there needs to be a consensus on what type of penalties that people have," said chairman, Robert Moore.

The commission will meet December 18th to discuss its final recommendations, which will be made to the legislature the first of the year.

Along with the public hearings, the commission is getting citizen input with an on line survey. You can take the survey by visiting the Attorney General web site.  Click on "news and events" then click on "emergency pursuit survey".