New law supported by top officers here

Published 5:00 am Monday, May 19, 2003

A new state law making it a crime for people to flee or eludelaw enforcement officers is getting the thumbs up from topofficials in the area.

“I think it’s a good law that we really need,” said LincolnCounty Sheriff Lynn Boyte.

Beginning in July and lasting for one year, Senate Bill 2446created the offense of fleeing or eluding law enforcement,something previously not punishable.

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“I hate that it’s just for one year. I’d like it to bepermanent,” said Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson.

Officials agree that foot chases and high speed pursuits areatoo common occurrence and hope the law will cut down on the numberof people who run from authorities.

Although the punishment for breaking the new law has not beendecided yet, officers believe any amount will be beneficial insaving lives.

“If the law is stiff enough, we’ll be able to see lessaccidents,” said Henderson.

Police pursuits often end when the offender either crashes intoanother vehicle or a building or runs off the side of the road.Sometimes the results are tragic when people are injured orkilled.

The purpose of the new law is to not only decrease the number ofpeople fleeing law enforcement but also make the offenders carrysome of the responsibility, officials said. In years past, officershave been praised for their hard work when they capture anoffender, but have also taken the blame when a pursuit goesbad.

“I think the responsibility needs to be placed on both sides.For too long, a lot of the liability has just been placed on lawenforcement, but a lot of times it’s the people who try to eludelaw enforcement,” said Boyte. “We should do what we are sworn to do– to protect the people — but also in these chases these peopleshould not have an open check to do what they want to do.”

Presently the charges for fleeing an officer are usually fleeingblue lights or failure to obey an officer.

A study commission also created by the bill will look at who isat fault when a crash occurs during a pursuit and whether the newlaw will have a positive affect on the problem.

“I welcome a study. We need to look at both sides,” said Boyte.”I think the responsibility and liability and actions of each oneinvolved should be studied very carefully.”