Officer disciplined for how he stopped chase

HOUSTON Several officers were almost hit during the chase last week. The officer in question is now accused of not following policy.

The situation, we are told, was handled at the divisional level by a police captain. The sergeant's actions are once again sparking new debate over HPD's controversial chase policy. It's a written policy that some say gives the bad guys the upper hand.

A wild and dangerous high speed chase through the streets of north Houston ended just ahead of a school zone, when the pursuing officer forced the fleeing suspect to turn sideways, lose control of his car and stop. Sergeant Edwin Lacourt used the pursuit immobilization technique, also called the PIT maneuver. While the chase ended safely, this technique is not included in HPD's written chase policy. Sergeant Lacourt was given a talking to from his captain and is now on probation.

Houston Police Officer's Union President Gary Blankinship said, "That's one of the problems with the existing policy. The criminals are dictating when the chases end instead of the police."

Blankinship commends sergeant Lacourt's actions. He is once again calling on HPD Chief Harold Hurtt to review the policy and allow officers to train to use the PIT maneuver.

"I think the police need every tool at their disposal to be able to stop these chases," Blankinship said.

New recommendations include letting officers use the PIT maneuver during pursuits 40 miles per hour and below. A supervisor would have to sign off for speeds above that. Also, offender status would not dictate how and when it is used. While officers are encouraged to spike strips and other methods to safely end a chase, supporters say the more choices they have, the better.

Blankinship said, "It gives the officers the opportunity to pick the location, the time, that is the safest for everyone involved."

Chief Hurtt released a statement: "We have researched, discussed and deliberated the appropriate parameters which govern police pursuits. … Based on that review and discussion, we feel our chase policy is sound and will remain as is."

If Sgt. Lacourt does not commit a similar infraction during his six month probationary period, this incident will be erased from his record.

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