Sheriff’s Chase Policy Not The Key Question

To some, this might sound, at some point, insensitive. It’s certainly not meant to be. To others, it may seem cruel. It’s assuredly not meant to be that either.

The intent, however, is to put something sad into perspective. The intent is also to lessen the chances of more such sadness.

Barely a fortnight ago, three Tampa teenagers, ages 15, 16 and 17, were killed when the stolen car they were in crashed. The wreck, a particularly horrific one, ended a brief chase by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies. The 15-year-old driver survived, tried to flee and was arrested.

Predictably and understandably enough, media coverage focused on young lives lost and the pursuit policy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department. Grieving mothers wanted to know why their sons — cruising in a stolen car after 10:00 p.m. on a school night — had to be chased.

Seems to me that asking more immediate and obvious questions — like Where? What for? With whom? Are you kidding? — might have obviated the need to ask one about the Sheriff’s chase policy.

And speaking of said policy, the department apparently followed its guidelines. That included verifying that a felony had been committed and getting the pursuit go-ahead from a supervisor weighing a checklist of criteria. A sheriff’s deputy even set stop-sticks, designed to deflate a car’s tires, but the fleeing vehicle went around them. It eventually careened into a median and struck a concrete overpass support.

The following day grief counselors were at Hillsborough High School, where one of the victims, 17-year-old James Lumpkins, was a student. The resultant talk, according to a school district spokesperson, was “all positive about the student.”

Lumpkins and two buddies, however, were not 9/11 victims, innocent bystanders or “life isn’t fair” poster boys. They were, although teenagers, fleeing felons.

Here’s another approach.

In lieu of grief counselors, send a deputy and crime scene photos to Hillsborough High. Call an assembly and say, in effect: “This is the result of a group of young men, one of them a Hillsborough High student, thumbing their noses at society and stealing someone’s car because — they wanted to. All they cared about was what they wanted. The law? Other people’s property? Anyone who got in their way? Not a concern of theirs. This is sad, and it’s a shame. But we’re not here for eulogies today.

“What they did ended this way because we would not let them get away with it — and they chose to run. Life is about choices.

“Any questions?”

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