Police Abuse

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Police Who Used Deadly Force to End High-Speed Car Chase

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Credit: Foter.com / OZ in OH / CC-BY-NC

The U.S. Supreme ruled today in favor of several West Memphis, Arkansas, police officers who used deadly force to end a high-speed car chase. The Court's ruling in Plumhoff v. Rickard overturns a previous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which had denied qualified immunity to the officers involved in the incident.

"Under the circumstances present in this case," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the Supreme Court, "we hold that the Fourth Amendment did not prohibit petitioners from using the deadly force that they employed to terminate the dangerous car chase."

At issue was a 2004 pursuit that began with a routine traffic stop and ended with the West Memphis police firing 15 rounds into the fleeing vehicle, killing both the driver and his passenger, neither of whom were armed. As expected, the Court upheld the constitutionality of those actions by the police. "If police officers are justified in firing at a suspect in order to end a severe threat to public safety," the Court held, "the officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended."

The opinion in Plumhoff v. Rickard is available here. No dissents were filed.

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  1. They don’t even pretend anymore.

  2. The government finds in favor of the government.

    Shocked!

    1. Interesting that it was buried at the end of the article.

    2. Correct and proper. Now that there is equality, we can start to claw back the inequalities of the past.

  3. “we hold that the Fourth Amendment did not prohibit petitioners from using the deadly force that they employed to terminate the dangerous car chase.”

    Of course it wasn’t the 4th, it is the 5th that forbids the taking of Life without due process.

    1. The 4th is usually used as it is seen as an issue of seizure of the person.

    2. Honestly, I don’t think that due process is at issue here. Sometimes the police are justified in killing to stop an immanent threat to the public. If someone is wandering around brandishing a gun and threatening to shoot people, I won’t fault cops for killing that guy if there was no other obviously safe way to stop him.

      In this case, though, I’d say there is always a better way to stop a high speed chase. Stop chasing. The danger ends there. The police should simply not engage in high speed chases. That’s what caused the danger here.

      1. “…if there was no other obviously safe way to stop him”

        That actually matters?

  4. As expected, the Court upheld the constitutionality of those actions by the police. “If police officers are justified in firing at a suspect in order to end a severe threat to public safety,” the Court held, “the officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended.”

    If police officers are justified in firing at a suspect

    That’s a superfluous “IF” if ever there was one.

    1. Not really.

      If they are justified then they need not stop shooting until the threat is ended.

      And I think that by itself is a reasonable statement. The problem is that in this case, the dangerous situation was created by the police giving chase and stopping the high speed chase would be much safer for the general public than shooting at a moving car. And it is not obvious or clear that fleeing the police is such a danger as to justify deadly force.

  5. Why were the suspects trying to flee the police to begin with?

    1. Pulled over for bad headlight, was asked if he was drinking, when asked to get out of car drove away, chase and summary execution followed.

    2. Because police shoot people without provocation.

      1. Failure to obey must be treated as a deadly threat because officer safety.

    3. A valid question. One the cops may have been able to answer had they opted to apprehend the suspects rather than murder them.

    4. Because they were probably Asian women delivering newspapers, and accordingly subject to attempted murder by the police.

  6. With as fucking authoritarian as the Nazgul are, this is sad but unexpected.

    How much longer do you think it will be till people start just trying to take out as many cops as possible before they go down? I mean if you’re going to be summarily executed and no one is going to punish the people that do it, you might as well right?

      1. Oh and I suppose you were totally justified shooting down the Gyro Captain? It’s not like he dropped a snake on you…

        1. “It’s my snake, I trained it, and I’m gonna eat it!”

        2. It wasn’t personal…the Children of the Wasteland were disobedient…

  7. Of course it wasn’t the 4th

    That jumped out at me, too.

    I suppose they could mean, “Pre-emptively shooting a suspect in order to make it easier to conduct a search of his person and effects falls well within the constraints of the New Professionalism.”

  8. The system worked.

  9. Did they have any idea who the second person in the car was?

    Are police entitled to shoot down innocent bystanders while blazing away at “suspects”?

    To me, that’s the hard fact about this case. Not that they shot the driver. That they greased the passenger also.

    1. Apparently ignorance is justification for deadly force now.

    2. I guess I need to be more selective about which friends I’ll ride around with.

      1. “Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch??”

    3. Are police entitled to shoot down innocent bystanders while blazing away at “suspects”?

      Didn’t that happen in NYC recently? Some guy was in the street acting strangely, and when he refused to obey the cops opened fire, hitting several bystanders. Nothing else happened.

      1. The suspect made the cops shoot those bystanders.

        1. Didn’t they actually charge the “suspect” with assault on the people the police shot, or am I thinking of another incident?

            1. OMFG!

              This type of bullshit is becoming absolutely intolerable.

      2. Whatever it takes to ensure the laws are complied with.

        1. By “laws” you mean “commands from the police,” right?

            1. “I AM the law!” – Dred

              1. More like ED 209, but close enough

    4. This is a good point. It’s conceivable that the second person in the car might be a hostage.

      1. Wasn’t there some story recently where cops gunned down a hostage for failure to obey?

        1. Yeah, there was an active stabber in a building, and scared, the victims ran towards the police for safety. Classic error.

    5. Yet the opinion emphasized the need to protect innocent bystanders. No, really. You can’t make this shit up.

    6. Since the suit was brought by The driver’s estate the Court said the reasonableness of the shooting with regard to the passenger was not relevant. For what it’s worth two justices did not join the court on that point

      1. Okay, so the court only (effectively) ruled 7-2 that shooting bystanders is okay. That makes me feel so much better.

  10. Did they have any idea who the second person in the car was?

    An unnamed co-conspirator.

    1. What difference, at this point, does it make?

  11. A valid question. One the cops may have been able to answer had they opted to apprehend the suspects rather than murder them.

    RESISTANCE IS FATAL.

  12. OT: Cranky progs publish Colion Noir mother’s home address. So he buys her gun.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QP3eihUrSo

    Just the tip, progs: might not be wise to physically antagonize gun owners.

    1. That’s pretty awesome.

      Liberals are great gun salesman. Every time a politician starts spouting off about gun control, I re-evaluate the size of my arsenal.

    2. Progressives: Absolutely bat-shit insane with rage that Black men have the right to be armed since 1865.

      1. Were there Progressives in 1865?

        1. Does your obtuseness stem from your diagnosed autism, or are you just a humorless twat? I would point out that the roots of Progressivism can be found in the Southern and Midwestern populist agrarians of the late 1870s who viewed the increasing wealth of urban Northeastern entrepreneurs, like the Rockefeller and Carnegie with jealousy and suspicion, but that would be merely humoring your obnoxious gadfly e-persona.

          1. SoCon!!!!!

          2. What a load of nonsense.

            In 1865 there was one political faction that was pushing unprecedented federal spending and intervention into the state and local governments, and that was the Radical Republicans. They were resisted by opponents who complained about the violation of states rights, the dangers of bloated and centralized government, and unconstitutional, excessive government spending.

            But here’s a hint: the Radical Republicans were not worried about armed black men.

            1. You can tell how much HM’s rebuke stung him by his off topic, historically ignorant reply and immediate denunciation.

              HM talks about progressivism’s roots, accurately, and Bo is so fucking stupid and deluded that he thinks his response somehow relates.

              Jesus Christ, you’re an idiot Bo.

              1. Yes, HM made a comment about Progressives in 1865, and when called on it gave an answer about the ‘roots’ of Progressivism, and in the 1870’s too, and it was me that was going off topic.

                Derp.

                1. Are you really this fucking stupid or are you just an obtuse asshole? American Progressivism is nothing more than Exeter Hall Liberalism as promulgated by the Whigs for the past 336 years.

            2. HM is right and nothing in your post even contradicts him.

  13. Worst part: No dissents were filed.

    Be armed and shoot first if pursued by pig.

    1. “Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.” Lazarus Long (Heinlein)

    2. How about just complying with the police and get any misdeeds by them sorted out in the courts?
      The level of ignorance on this thread re: police conduct is astounding.
      Until you have faced what a cop has to, STFU.

  14. Don’t ask for the link but this reminds me of that story from Texas where they machine gunned a pickup truck full of Mexicans from a helicopter during a chase. Guess that one will be justified too.

  15. And something happened!

    Female Texas trooper fired for illegal cavity search on shocking dashcam video pleads guilty to criminal charges – but DENIES touching anyone’s privates

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..vates.html

    If she violates the terms of her probation, she will be sent to jail. Also, the former trooper has been barred from working in law enforcement.

    Yay!

    1. Also, the former trooper has been barred from working in law enforcement.

      Whoa, the Death Sentence.

    2. The patriarchy wins again

    3. Will she sue to get it overturned because of the patriarchy?

  16. Another disgusting decision that further elevates the already bloated ego of civilian peace keeping.

    If you’re a cop, stay away from me and my family. We don’t trust you and we have no respect for you.

    Oh, and what will we do if we get in trouble and need help? We’d all probably be quite surprised just how well we’d get along if we slashed the ranks of cops by at least a third….perhaps in half.

    1. Legalize drugs, fire half the LEOs in the country. I suspect we would in fact all be better off.

      1. Make “half” “most”.

      2. If criminal law was limited only to crimes with actual victims, instead of crimes against the state, I suspect we could get by with a tenth of the police we have today. Maybe even fewer.

        1. And how many prisons/guards could we eliminate?

          The liberty dividend.

  17. In Los Angeles, the police are able to pursue a suspect in a vehicle but are not allowed to engage unless the vehicle is being used in a very hazardous and dangerous way. They are able to call in police helicopters to pursue while the police cars hang back and attempt to blockade other cars from overtaking the pursuit. LA has an enormous police force that is able to prevent nearly all fleeing suspects from successfully getting away. I would suspect not all PD have those resources.

    I don’t know the specifics of this case – nor does it matter to this general thought experiment – but what do other people believe the should police do in situations where a fleeing suspect is driving both very hazardously and dangerously?

    Personally, I would expect that the pursuing cops would attempt to run them off the road. That potentially dangerous maneuver is weighed against the overall danger of the hazardous fleeing suspect. That one of the cop’s job is taking some risk for the benefit of community. I would never expect them to shoot at someone who is not shooting back.

    Again I’m not going to talk to the specific of the case, but a vehicle in the hands of a unstable driver can be a weapon. They may not be armed with a gun, but they are armed. And depending upon how they are wielding their weapon determines how dangerous they are.

    1. That one of the cop’s job is taking some risk for the benefit of community.

      The cop’s job is to go home safely, even if that means putting the community at risk.

    2. fleeing suspect is driving both very hazardously and dangerously?

      Stop pursuing?

      1. He can still drive dangerously.

    3. What about if the drivers are Asian women delivering newspapers? Summary execution?

  18. I don’t have enough information to decide here. If letting the suspect go could lead to endangering the public, then he must be stopped. It is totally possible that shooting the tires was justified. Shooting the people is less creditable.

  19. I would look at why they are chasing him. If its because he’s a suspect in a violent crime, they can carry on with the chase.

    Absent that, I don’t see how its justified to put the community at risk with a high-speed chase. It takes two to chase, after all. No cops with lights and sirens, no chase, no reckless driving. The responsibility of the cops here is something more than zero.

    Take this case. The guy takes off. So what? They’ve got his license plate, identity, etc. Pick him up later if there’s no reason to believe that just having him walk around for a day or so is a particular danger.

  20. Thanks for giving cops cart blanche to shoot anyone they don’t like, SCOTUS!

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