It must be one of the toughest decisions a law enforcement officer has to make: whether to take off in hot pursuit or let a suspect pull away and risk letting him escape for good.
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, a whole posse of Park City police officers, Summit County deputies and Utah Highway Patrol troopers had to make that exact choice as a man tore through the county in what has since been identified as a stolen car. The suspect, who is now incarcerated, admits to fleeing from police at speeds as high as 130 miles per hour.
They ended up allowing the car to cross over the county line into Salt Lake. And it was the right decision. One innocent driver was clipped but sustained only minor injuries when she inadvertently got caught up in the chase. It could have been much worse. Park City was bustling that Tuesday morning with employees headed to work and students heading to area schools. No one was prepared to try to outwit or elude a desperado on the run.
Instead of escalating the situation, lawmen ended up relying on good old fashioned police work and shoe leather. Summit County Sheriff's Lieutenant John Lange followed a few leads and successfully apprehended the man without incident a few days later.
The decision to back off may have been a bit easier in the absence of a violent crime. On Feb. 3 in California, police there were on the trail of a known killer who had announced his intentions to take more lives. In that case, the margin of error between capture and caution was razor thin.
As law-abiding citizens, we regularly count on police and deputies to insert themselves into dangerous situations and to, at all times, place public safety first. While high-speed chases are rare in Summit County and we hope that continues to be the case we rely on local officers' training and good sense to carefully evaluate each situation and to avoid forcing the battle onto local roadways.
While some may have criticized law enforcement's efforts, the end result is that no one was seriously injured and the perpetrator, who does not seem to have committed any other offenses, is now in jail and off the streets.
In entrusting law enforcement personnel with extraordinary powers, we also expect them to know when not to use them.