Local police said it is up to an officer’s discretion to chase a fleeing suspect. To stop their quarry, officers have used spike strips and a maneuver where a patrol car hits the suspect’s vehicle at a specific point to make it spin out and stop. They also frown upon ramming the suspect’s car while it’s moving because that is akin to using deadly force. A few list these as possible options in their vehicle pursuit policy and include the use of a firearm. The Supreme Court justices heard arguments last week on the case of a Georgia deputy who ended a 2001 high-speed chase by ramming a Cadillac. The car went down an embankment and left the 19-year-old driver, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, a quadriplegic. The question before the high court is whether Coweta County, Ga., Deputy Timothy Scott’s use of deadly force was reasonable. The driver, Victor Harris, sued the deputy, claiming that his Fourth Amendment rights to unreasonable seizure was violated because Scott used excessive force. In December, El Monte police officers tried to pull over a man in a suspected stolen Toyota Tacoma pickup truck but he sped off. The driver ran a red light at a South El Monte intersection and crashed into a car carrying four people. A Rosemead woman and her daughter later died. The Dec. 28 incident was among the 1,250 police pursuits in Los Angeles County last year and resulted in two of the 11 deaths reported. While the number of police chases and related injuries declined statewide last year compared with the year before, there was a slight increase in the number of chase-related deaths. Scott’s attorney, Philip Sarvin, said Harris was driving 90 to 100 mph on two-lane roads, swerved across the double line to pass cars, drove the wrong way and ran through red lights. He argued that Scott believed stopping the pursuit would avoid a greater risk of injury or death than not taking action. Craig Jones, who represents Harris, said that his client didn’t commit a felony and that while he drove fast, he was in control of his vehicle. USC law professor Charles Whitebread, who specializes in the U.S. Supreme Court, thinks the justices will rule in favor of the deputy. But he thinks any decision by the high court will have limited effect in California because state law gives police immunity from civil liability if the suspect they are chasing hits somebody causing death, injury or property damage. “Suspects initiate pursuits. We do not,” said Sgt. Mark Garrett, spokesman for the CHP’s Southern Division, which covers Los Angeles County. “An officer doesn’t have to chase somebody. Officers have to weigh what are the risks and gains.” Garrett said officers only use the spike strip and the PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver when it’s going to be safe for everyone involved. California police pursuits led to 58 deaths and 2,260 injuries in 2006, according to a CHP report. In Los Angeles County, 410 drivers, officers, passengers and people not involved in the chase were injured. In 2005, 7,949 police chases statewide killed 49 and injured 2,585 people. The county’s 1,607 pursuits resulted in 10 fatalities with 608 injured. Under its pursuit policy, the West Covina Police Department doesn’t permit the use of the PIT maneuver at speeds over 35 mph because it can be considered a lethal use of force. Dettor said there’s a reason why the policy is overly broad. “Many situations we get in involves a gray area, probably just about every situation. And hard and fast rules are difficult to apply. Every situation is different,” Dettor said. email@example.com (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2718160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!