MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A blue Chevy Malibu weaving in and out of traffic, barreling down the wrong side of the street in Hernando, Mississippi led to a police chase that caused a lot of controversy.
WREG reached out to retired Shelby County Sherriff’s Captain and Crime Analyst Bennie Cobb to get his take on the pursuit from start to finish. He said during the beginning of the chase, the suspect was going North on a 55 mph highway at an 80 mph speed.
Cobb says chases are really not condoned by most law enforcement agencies from the get go.
“Most agencies will not allow you to pursuit for eight minutes,” he said. “Two minutes, three minutes, it’s over with.”
The radio dispatch can be heard describing the suspect speeding up.
“He is up to 100 miles an hour. 100 miles an hour. Traffic moderate to heavy.”
Cobb says when a chase does occur, dispatch radio pulls in supervisors to get details.
“It’s adrenaline,” he said. “It’s absolutely adrenaline. It don’t know how old this officer is and how long he has been on, but a lot of veteran officers get that out of their systems. They are like ‘my family needs me. I am not gonna get in a high speed pursuit and kill myself or have liabilities.'”
Cobb said the supervisor, who is somewhere else listening in, can only rely on what the officer is telling him.
“That supervisor should be saying what’s the speed, what’s the weather conditions, what’s the traffic conditions,” he said. “Those questions should be asked several different times in eight minutes.”
Cobb also said if the supervisor thinks that the speed is too fast, or the traffic is too heavy, then the supervisor is supposed to call off the pursuit.
“But most officers are not gonna break it off on their own,” he said.
In the audio dispatch, the supervisor can be heard asking the officer about the charge with the officer replying “no charges.”
“What charges,” the officer said on the recording. “I don’t know right now. He is like all over the road. No charges.”
On these clips, you never hear exactly what charges caused police to chase the suspect, which is a red flag for Bennie Cobb.
“He still hasn’t given the charge,” Cobb said. “If he comes back and says traffic, the supervisor should say stop it. He still didn’t say it was stolen, so right now all he has is traffic charges.”
Officers in the chase can be heard on the audio recording frantically giving the streets they are passing and speeds they are exceeding.
“Alright, we are back south bound on 51,” an officer said on the recording.
At some points, other motorists do their best to avoid the speeding vehicles trying to get away from the danger. In the audio dispatch, one officer can be heard giving the name of a major intersection.
“Passing Countryhaven. Passing Countryhaven.”
A few seconds later, the officers asked permission to use TVI, Tactical Vehicle Intervention,to stop the fleeing car.
“Permission TVI, permission TVI. He is going to kill somebody.”
But officers do not get permission after they cannot give what the suspect is charged with. Bennie Cobb said some jurisdictions can use another tactic to stop a fleeing vehicle.
“A lot of jurisdictions are allowed to do what they call a pit maneuver, which is run into the tail of them and cause them to spin out,” he said.
The chase goes on for close to 20 minutes, apparently even after a supervisor tells officers to “terminate” it.
“Weaving in and out of traffic about to cause an accident,” an officer said on the recording. “Traffic moving out of the way.”
“He is about to cause an accident. Terminate.” says another voice, apparently the supervisor.
Cobb said if the supervisors called the pursuit off but officers did not, that would have increased danger to the public.
“When he said terminate, he should have been errp!” Cobb said. “Hit the brakes, and that would have been the end of it.”
Cobb also said what happened in the video shows why police chases are rarely used anymore.
“He is driving recklessly,” he said. “Memphis and a lot of other agencies would have called it off, because you can’t get them all. Unless it was a citizen or police officer who had been shot or something like that. But a stolen car? Nobody does that anymore.”
WREG asked the Hernando Police Department for a copy of their chase policy, but the department denied our Freedom of Information request, saying “written procedures to be followed by officers when performing their jobs are exempt from investigative reports.”
Cobb said if officers decide to chase a vehicle, they are to chase them until they are told not to anymore or until they crash and stop. This pursuit did not end until the suspect’s car crashed.
After the stop, the interaction between police and the suspect is now the center of a lawsuit after officers called out a K-9 dog as the suspect throws his hands up to surrender. One officer even throws a punch hitting the suspect. Cobb said the punch was unnecessary.
“In my opinion, it was really unnecessary because the dog had control of him, and from that point, you should be giving verbal commands,” he said.
Cobb also said the next step would be for the supervisors to meet with officers and go over what happened in the chase and to determine if the protocol was followed. However, Cobb, who trained officers during his time on the force, says from what he sees, there is a lot of answering to do.
“The pursuit itself was dangerous and should have been called off,” Cobb said. “If it was called off, the officer should have stopped pursuing immediately.”
Hernando Police would not tell us what department action was taken against the officers involved.