Cops stand by pursuit policy

| 17/07/2013

(CNS): The RCIPS says its pursuit policy, which was revised in December 2010, covers all of the issues raised in a recent judge’s ruling, in which a police officer was found to be liable in the death of a local man after the car hewas in crashed during a high speed chase. Justice Alex Henderson found that PC Mitchell’s decision to pursue the car in which Bruce Lee Ebanks (31) was a passenger at high speed was an act of negligence and that the crash occurred because a police car was in pursuit for more than six minutes at speeds that reached as much as 90 mph. Although the judge found that Mitchell did not comply with the police pursuit policy, the RCIPS does not believe the officer was at fault and never contemplated action against him.

The judgment came following a civil action in the Grand Court filed by Ebanks’ mother against the attorney general and the police. Despite losing the case, the RCIPS said that they did not believe the police were at fault, and although they intend to review the ruling, the policy covers all of the issue raised in the case.

“The pursuit policy was reviewed, revised and subsequently published in December 2010," a police spokesperson told CNS on Tuesday. “The revised policy covered all of the issues highlighted by the judge post-incident. The attorney general had opposed the action. We agree that the RCIPS should not have been held at fault; therefore no action had been contemplated against the officer. Unfortunately the learned Judge disagreed and, as such, we will review the written judgment to see if there are any lessons to be learned."

Ebanks died when the car driven by Alexander Callan, who was convicted of killing him and Sidney Myles (21) as a result of dangerous driving and who was also found liable in the civil action, crashed into a light pole near to the Ritz Carlton on the West Bay Road. However, Pauline Ebanks, as the representative of Bruce Ebanks’ estate, brought the action against the attorney general as well as the representative of the RCIPS, as she claimed that the actions of the police also caused or contributed to the crash.  

The judge agreed when he found that Mitchell had failed to follow the steps of the police pursuit policy and that he had begun the chase based merely on suspicion and without any evidence of a crime.

According to the details of the case, at around 11:30pm on 29 February 2008, PC Mitchell spotted the car in West Bay in an area they considered a drug hang-out and said the men were acting suspiciously. When the car sped away from the area, Mitchel followed. However the judge found that when he began the chase, Mitchell did not advise the 911 centre of the reason for the pursuit and did not ask for a supervisor to oversee it on the radio network and no report on the pursuit was ever filed.

The chase was, according to experts, particularly long and was carried out at very dangerous high speeds. It started at King Road in West Bay, and the two cars drove at high speeds from Velma Banks Drive along Fountain Road then Town Hall Road and down the West Bay Road until the crash occured near the Ritz Carlton.

The judge found that without a supervisor on the pursuit, no one was there to weigh whether merely a suspicion about the men was worth the danger of the pursuit. The judge believed that had the pursuit been supervised, the senior officer would have terminated the chase as early as Town Hall Road because of the emphasis on safety in the pursuit policy. The judge said a supervisor would have considered that the risk to the public was not justified once the cars reached 90mph.

“I am satisfied that PC Mitchell's failure to provide the reason for the pursuit and request a supervisor immediately and the failure of the RCIPS to ensure that a senior officer supervised the pursuit in accordance with the policy were omissions which violated the letter and the spirit of the policy in a fundamental way,” Justice Henderson said in his ruling.

He noted that police officers often have to make difficult, quick decision and will, as a result, sometime make errors in judgement which are not necessarily negligent. But in this case, the error in judgement was “so erroneous as to represent a departure from the usual standard of care expected of trained police officers” and did amount to negligence. He said PC Mitchell’s decision to follow a vehicle travelling at speeds up to 90mph on the reasons he gave was a clear error in judgement.

“The desire to investigate a drug offence or even a firearms offence cannot justify the pursuit which occurred,” the judge said in his ruling. Justice Henderson noted that, as an employee of the RCIPS, his act of negligence is attributed to the police.

“The accident was contributed to, if not caused by, the speed at which Mr Callan was driving. He was doing so because a police car was chasing him. Had the pursuit been terminated it is more probable than not that Mr Callan would have slowed down to a normal speed so as to avoid attracting further police attention. Consequently, the negligent failure to end the pursuit was one factor which contributed to the accident,” he added as he awarded judgment to Ebanks.

The civil ruling is likely to result in a hefty payout in damages and costs from the public purse, which has not yet been revealed.

See the judgment and the RCIPS pursuit policy below.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    XXX if there is a policy about pursuits and an officer fails to follow it, he is then on his own as he has taken a decision to disobey an organisational policy.   Its the same everywhere.  If the office rules say one thing and staff choose to do the opposite, they are liable, not the organisation.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Until they keep getting sued. Clearly the RCIPS does not care about lawsuits! They have NEVER had so many against them as they do now.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well, this explains everything!

    Now I know why the cops are no where to be seen trying to stop or chase down speeding drivers on our bypass roads….

    All this time I thought it was the pull of the almighty, jelly donut!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The RCIP are liable because the guy tried to flee and crashed his car? Please……when are we going to stop making excuses? The guy should have pulled over. What kind of message does this send wreckless drivers……drive as fast as you can becuase the police are not allowed to pursue?

    • Anonymous says:

      It was the PASSENGER in the car's mother that filed suit. And she filed against the driver too. Sometimes the RCIPS is just wrong – and this is one of them.

    • Anonymous says:

      The more logical and safe option would have been to alert other police units about the suspects direction of travel, follow the suspect at a safe distance and have a unit ahead deploy a stinger or similar device to disable the suspects car.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Crazy rulings again. Well, the police get my support. The suspect tried to flee & I thank the police for doing their job in pursuing him. Only the guilty flee. It's sad when the guilty's actions affect the innocent though.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Pursuit on a tiny island ?

    Get the license plate and pick them up the next day.

    You don't want an american situation here.



    • Something for you and the rest of the Cayman to think of says:

      I do understand your concerns but it would be unfortunate if the Police get information/intelligence that someone is heading your way in a vehicle with loaded Guns (Lots of rounds of ammo) and machetes to carry out harm on you, family or friends. However, Police are unable to chase and stop vehicle from getting to you because Police were told that they can only get registration numbers of vehicles and locate the car the next day after the job has been done. Sad that people like you pushing for policies like this one that has brought our beautiful Cayman Islands to down to this level. I would now suggest to the police to get a tool to quickly disable/stop vehicles from getting to you to do you harm and of course you can help with the fund raisers or seeking donations to get the funds for that tool. Thanks in advance for your help in those needed fund raisers, for the betterment of the Cayman Islands and to prove that you have good intentions for Law Enforcement and you are not an anti-Police. Thanks very much for your help.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Notch up another one for the criminals.  And the public pays.  And now the Caymankind rule is if chased,  don't stop.  They can't chase you because you might crash and hurt yourself.  Further proof that taking responsibility for ones actions is not recognized here.

  8. Anonymous says:

    as usual …nothing makes sense around here… welcome to wonderland..

  9. Anonymous says:

    I would have more confidence in the police drivers were they to obey the basic traffic laws. I witnessed three examples yesterday of police negotiating roundabouts with zero use of indicators, in one case forcing me to stop instead of allowing me to  flow into the curculating traffic. They generally  set a terrible example in this regard.

  10. Anonymous says:

    An odd decision in that it does not appear that the Defendant raised the many cases about the protection given to police in the exercise of operational decisions in "hot" situations or the defence of ex turpi causa. 

  11. Anonymous says:

    police stop me I am not stoping I am steping on the gas

  12. Anonymous says:

    Well, I guess the solution is for the RCIP to never pursue then… Hello Mr. Supervisor, I just saw someone doing xxxxx at xxxxx location. They just took off towards XX. Yes, they were driving very fast when they saw my marked car and took off at a high rate of speed. Let them go? Ok, just checking. Are you F'ing kidding me? How about you tack on an automatic 5-10 year sentence for fleeing and eluding, enforce it, and see how many of these little pu**ies run then? Between the limited roads, traffic cameras, and common sense, it should be fairly hard to get away.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Am I the only one that sees the judges ruling was based on a policy that was written two years after the pursuit occurred?

  14. Anonymous says:

    It is sheer madness to pursue a car doing 90 miles per hour anywhere in Cayman, by anyone, for any reason.

    • Anonymous says:

      Okay.   So the RCIP puts on the lights, with intent to stop a driver.    They speed away, and the police should not pursue???    Just take down the license number??   What manner of madness is this??   Oh sure, they'll still have the guns or drugs or still be DUI the next day.   Insanity.   If a perp runs or drives away, they are hiding something, which justifies pursuit.    Otherwise, why have police in cars at all??   I sense a serious disconnect between some folks and reality.   Police have a job.   Let them do it.  

      • Anonymous says:

        Your mama obviously never taught you that too much of anything is good for nothing.

    • Anonymous says:

      I hope all you scientists with your thumbs down have good life insurance for yourselves and your families.

    • Anonymous says:

      All you intelligent thumb downers obviously haven't thought about the little kid running out into the street behind his ball.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes but who is your problem the speeder himself or the police officer.

        What if that police officer is chasing someone that may have kidnapped someone and is planning to do them significant harm?

        What if that person is carrying a major load of drugs?

        I just hope that if that have to chase them that the judge throws the entire Kitchen sink at that individual.

        Too many times we are handcuffing our police officers in doing their work. The law is more concerned for the criminal that true justice.

        • Anonymous says:

          Which would you consider more important, sparing the life of the little kid or seizing the major load of drugs?