Sheriff Cannon: Charleston deputies aren't trained in 'pit maneuvers'
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon stood before the media Thursday said the decision to hold that day's press conference followed several high speed chases in the Lowcountry that resulted in death, injury or destruction of property. He said his office received many requests and questions on pursuit policy.
The sheriff described high speed pursuits as "inherently dangerous elements of what police officers do." Over the years, he said law enforcement agencies have sought to limit the danger and threats associated with police pursuits. While he said there are things in place for the safety of all who could be impacted by a chase, he believe's it's unwise for law enforcement agencies to put a stop on all vehicle pursuits.
Cannon said his deputies are required to report on everything during a chase -- from weather and traffic to the type of area and speed. He said those elements play a role in making a decision on whether to continue or discontinue a pursuit.
"The line between being a hero and zero is a very thin line," he said.
When do chases actually start and why? The sheriff said that's important to ask from both practical and legal perspectives.
“These things happen, wherever they happen,” Cannon said.
Why they happen, Cannon said varies, but admitted chases often begin with a traffic stop the suspect ignored or fled. Additional crimes are committed the moment the person drives away, and what was originally a traffic stop becomes dangerous and unpredictable. For that reason, the sheriff said failing to stop for blue lights is “a very serious crime in South Carolina.”
Cannon hopes people can see the parallels with other areas of law enforcement as they think about chases.
“Getting out of a car and running after someone is another dangerous situation.” he said. “…We can’t eliminate the dangers that are in law enforcement.”
When asked about a recent crash in Berkeley County during which a biker was killed after a deputy's cruiser made contact with his motorcycle, Cannon said his department is not trained in what's called a pit maneuver.
"I'm not going to say there isn't a set of circumstances where that needs to be done," Cannon said of such maneuvers as he described scenarios that may involve gunfire or the ramming of a law enforcement officer's vehicle.