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Senator Unveils Legislation To Curb High-Speed Police Chases

November 9, 1991

HARRISBURG (AP) _ Lynne Dunn believes her mother’s life was senselessly wiped out during a high-speed chase when police were trying to catch a man who had stolen three pairs of sneakers.

Ms. Dunn joined two lawmakers Friday in pushing for legislation that would limit high-speed police chases to situations when officers are trying to catch dangerous criminals.

A Bucks County resident, Ms. Dunn described for reporters how her mother was killed and her father critically injured last November - a year ago Friday - when police started chasing a man who stole three pairs of sneakers, commandeered a mall security truck and took off.

Her parents, returning from a doctor appointment, were hit head on.

When the chase ended, Ms. Dunn said, police caught their suspect.

″But three children buried their mother as their father lay critically injured in a hospital bed,″ she said. ″My mother’s life was worth more than a stolen vehicle.″

Under a bill sponsored by Sen. J. Doyle Corman, R-Centre, police departments would be forced to have written guidelines outlining when chases are acceptable.

Officers would have to contact a supervisor before pursuing a suspect, roadblocks would be a last resort and more than two cars at a time would be prohibited from actively taking part in a chase.

″We must recognize that a ‘chase-at-all costs’ policy is not in the best interest of public safety,″ Corman said.

Corman said many chases start out with a minor traffic violation and end up in deadly duels. He said he wants to stop police officers from starting dangerous chases to catch someone who has a broken headlight.

Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Warren VanBuskirk said that doesn’t happen often.

″But that is the story that makes the paper and probably makes the press because in hindsight, the Monday-morning quarterback, it looks like it was a very minor reason to start that,″ he said. He wouldn’t comment on the legislation without seeing it.

VanBuskirk said state police already have a chase policy, which he said is a good idea for local police departments as well.

Corman said he consulted police chiefs about the legislation and they were in favor of it.

Karen Deklinski, executive director of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, wasn’t in her office and was unavailable for comment, a secretary said.

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