A recent news report on a local police chase raises some troubling questions. It was not the chase itself that was remarkable, but rather the perception that the police were the ones having to be on the defensive about it.
We're wondering why.
Here's the background: On Dec. 18, a motorist in the Bingen area was noticed driving erratically and failing to stop at a stop sign. The driver then tried to flee from two Bingen-White Salmon Police officers who attempted to stop his vehicle.
The motorist crossed the Hood River Toll Bridge, and the pursuit continued in the Hood River area. In his attempts to escape the police, the driver blew through stop signs and red lights at a high rate of speed, estimated to be around 60-70 mph. Eventually, he lost control of his vehicle and went into a ditch. Then he tried to escape on foot in a steep, wooded area.
At that point, the pursuing Bingen-White Salmon Police officers decided to release their police dog to nab the man trying to get away. The dog, "Justice," tracked and located the suspect and played a major role in his apprehension. In the process, the suspect suffered dog bites and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
In a news release about the incident, local police officers explained that using the police dog was justified and necessary, and that the dog "assured the suspect was captured and the officers were safe."
From our perspective, there is no doubt that employing the dog in this case was the right move to make. Have we gotten to a point where the police have to justify all the actions they take, especially in a critical situation like this one? Is this the product of all the micro-managing we've seen from the White Salmon City Council, which recently eliminated funding for the Police Department's K9 program?
Frankly, we trust our police officers to follow their training and do what they believe is best in an emergency situation. We do not see any reason to second guess their decisions, and it is unfortunate if our officers feel they are under a microscope. We are glad they have a police dog to provide assistance in a situations such as this.
There was methamphetamine and marijuana in the suspect's vehicle, and he was allegedly under the influence of meth when he was driving. Although no gun was located, police had information that led them to believe the suspect had a pistol in his possession as well, which may have been discarded during his efforts to escape.
Obviously, this man put other people at risk of serious injury or death with his recklessness. He easily could have plowed into someone as he went through red lights, and tragedy could have resulted.
By all means, use the dog to apprehend a fleeing suspect. It should not even be an issue. If a suspect does not want to face a pursuing dog or risk getting bit, then he should pull over and surrender.
To our police officers and the police dog: Thanks for a job well done.