Was new chase policy followed?

May 22, 2008 3:46:16 PM PDT
Its been just over three weeks since the shocking end to a police chase in which a driver was shot dead in the Galleria area. On Thursday, we learned a brand new chase policy was in effect at the time police shot Roland Carnaby. The policy was put into effect two weeks before Carnaby was shot last month. Carnaby sped off during a typical traffic stop after claiming to be a CIA agent. Police officers rushed his vehicle after catching up to him in the Galleria. He was shot and killed when police saw something shiny in his hand, which turned out to be his cell phone.

HPD says it is still reviewing the case to see if any procedures were broken. But the attorney for Carnaby's family says if officers would have followed that revised plan, Carnaby would still be here today.

On April 14, 2008, a copy of the revised Houston police chase policy was issued to officers. In a note signed by the chief, it says all employees are held accountable for the information contained inside. One difference between the old policy and the new one is a long list of officer responsibilities.

Among many things, it says an officer must constantly evaluate the risk factors involved when starting or continuing as pursuit, including the seriousness of the crime which the officer responds.

In the case of Carnaby, he was originally stopped for speeding. Another factor, if enough information is known about the suspect being chased to file a warrant, officers will be expected to stop the chase.

"They knew exactly who he was, where he lived. He didn't commit a serious crime," said Randall Callinen, attorney for Carnaby's family. "As matter of fact, they knew his criminal record, which is he has never been arrested for a crime in his entire 52 years of existence."

Kallinen says police violated the policy on how to approached a vehicle. The policy states officers should attempt to establish verbal communications with the suspects while maintaining a position of advantage.

"The officer did not get behind cover, but attacked vehicle busting in window with nightstick and shooting Mr. Carnaby in the back unarmed."

On Thursday, HPD Chief Harold Hurt would not comment on the case since a civil suit is pending.

"We're still in process of reviewing that both administratively as well as criminal because there was a death," he said.

There are many questions surrounding Carnaby's employment. The chief says he was told by the FBI that at one point, Carnaby was an informant for the agency. The family's attorney says when the civil suit goes to trial, they will also prove that he worked on contract with the Central Intelligent Agency, the Secret Service, as well as the FBI.

The police department's chase policy has come under scrutiny several times over the past few years. Back in January of 2006, one of their own officers spoke out, saying police should have backed off of this chase, which ended with a head-on collision. The driver slammed head first into a car carrying two women and a baby in southwest Houston. They were not seriously hurt.

Later that year, the police department created a pursuit review committee to examine chases and make recommendations.

In September of 2007, another chase involving a drug suspect also came under scrutiny. Our cameras caught more than eight squad cars chasing after the suspect in busy traffic. By the time it was over, there were 18 law enforcement squad cars surrounding the suspect's vehicle. Critics said too many officers responding created more danger for passing motorists.

According to HPD's chase policy, only one supervisor and two additional units should participate in a pursuit, is unless the supervisor approves additional units.

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