Police say they’re reviewing a chase along a major city street, and some have questioned whether the pursuit should have been called off.
Brandon Police Service Sgt. Mike Pelechaty says it’s standard policy to review major incidents such as this chase.
“All major incidents of this nature are reviewed and that’s currently being conducted,” Pelechaty said in an interview on Wednesday.
Part of that analysis includes whether existing policy was followed, and whether response can be improved for other such incidents.
On Jan. 2, RCMP and the Brandon Police Service were led on a chase that ended at the city’s eastern outskirts with a crash and the arrest of two suspects, a man and a woman.
It’s alleged that they were involved in a series of break-ins and vehicle thefts that stretched from Lethbridge, Alta., to Elkhorn.
Police say the man and woman were initially spotted by RCMP near Virden as they travelled in a stolen pickup truck, but Mounties declined to pursue given the vehicle’s high speed.
It’s alleged that the man and woman then stole a car from Oak Lake. The Brandon Police Service spotted the car at Kemnay, where it turned onto Highway 1A and headed for Brandon.
What followed was a police chase east along Victoria Avenue through the city, which ended when the suspect car turned onto Highway 110 and collided with another vehicle.
No one was seriously injured and the man and woman were arrested at the crash scene.
However, since the crash, police have since been criticized online. It has been suggested that the chase should have been called off instead of continuing along a major city street.
One person complained of nearly being struck by the fleeing car.
According to another account posted online, an unmarked police car with its lights on was heading south at high speed over the Daly Overpass.
The police cruiser crashed into a sign post on the west side of 18th Street and was “very, very lucky” it didn’t hit an SUV.
Pelechaty confirmed on Wednesday that an unmarked police cruiser was involved in a collision around the intersection of 18th Street and Rosser Avenue.
No other vehicles were involved and nobody was injured, including the officer who was driving the cruiser.
The car, however, was damaged and had to be taken out of service for repair.
Pelechaty said the cruiser wasn’t pursuing the suspects’ car at the time. Rather, it was monitoring and travelling parallel to the pursuit in an effort to get into position to assist with a stop.
He said that collision is being investigated by the force’s traffic section.
As with other collisions involving police, it will be subject to a review to determine if procedures were followed and recommendations will be made, if necessary, to prevent other incidents.
As to whether the pursuit should have been called off, Pelechaty outlined some of the circumstances surrounding the chase.
Notified by RCMP, city police had stationed vehicles on each entrance to Brandon along the Trans-Canada Highway, including at the Highway 1A intersection at Kemnay.
The officer in the BPS cruiser stationed at Kemnay notified the other units that he or she had spotted the suspect vehicle.
As the other units spread across the city tried to move into a position to assist, the officer pursued the suspects’ car and tried to stop it before it entered the city, where there was an increased risk of collision and injury.
The pursuing officer activated lights and sirens, but the driver didn’t stop. Police say the car actually accelerated to 150 km/h.
Police tried to stop the fleeing car by laying a so-called stop stick on Victoria Avenue just west of 34th Street.
Such devices are placed on the road to deflate the tires of fleeing vehicles. Unlike spike belts, stop sticks are designed to deflate tires relatively slowly so the driver can maintain control.
But in this case, the ploy didn’t work. There may not have been enough time to deploy the equipment properly.
Pelechaty said there’s constant communication by radio between officers, and a supervisor can call off a chase if he or she decides that it’s unsafe for officers, suspects and the general public.
The pursuing officer can also decide to end the chase. The decision depends on a variety of factors such as speed, road conditions, manner of driving by the suspect and amount of traffic.
Pelechaty said he understands that in this case the chase wasn’t called off because the suspect driver slowed down once in the city, although no specific speed is available. Traffic also wasn’t heavy, Pelechaty said.
“It’s my understanding that speeds reduced dramatically upon entering the city due to traffic. … The actions of the operator of the driver being pursued were within reason as well,” Pelechaty said.
“If (the speed) was excessive, the pursuit would have been terminated.”
Pelechaty added that the speed of the suspects’ car was likely “reasonable” because it had a lead. By the time it reached 10th Street, the suspect car was far ahead of any police vehicles.
He also confirmed another side note to the chase — the man and woman in the suspect car switched positions as it travelled along Victoria Avenue East.
The car slowed and the woman, who had been driving through the city, switched spots with the man.
Anthony Paul Blais, 42, and Laura Lee Dawn Palmer, 33, both of Calgary, each face numerous charges. They’re currently in custody and are set to appear in court on Monday.
None of the above allegations have been proven in court.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 9, 2014