Cut to the chase

Police pursuit is a result of a driver's poor choice

It’s a raw tragedy that two young North Augusta brothers died in a car crash early Wednesday. But it’s an unmitigated outrage that anyone would blame law enforcement for their deaths.

The Richmond County deputy chasing Derrick Darden, 23, and Deante Darden, 22, across the Gordon Highway bridge into North Augusta after they fled the deputy in downtown Augusta “should have stopped,” their grieving mother says.

With all due respect to an understandably overwrought mother, the car chase should never have been started. And that was completely the Dardens’ doing.

Life is a series of choices. No matter what our anything-goes society wants you to believe, some choices are inherently bad or good. Helping save a dying person is good. Feeding the hungry. Treating others with respect. Showing responsibility at work or school or home. Abiding by the laws society has set out. Adhering to God’s law. These things and more are, by their very nature, good. Good for the individual, good for society, good morally.

Other choices are, by their nature, bad. Engaging in criminal activity. Endangering others. Disobeying lawful police orders. And, yes, attempting to elude officers at high speeds.

How this chase ended is a tragedy. That it started at all is a travesty. And the fault for neither of those can be laid at the feet of the deputy who was attempting to protect this community in the wee hours of the morning at great risk to himself.

We realize that high-speed chases have been a matter of great debate over the years nationally. And some jurisdictions – either because of their population density or other considerations – have differing policies regarding when to break off pursuit of a fleeing vehicle. But there’s nothing whatsoever in this case to suggest this officer violated either department policy or plain old horse sense in trying to stop this car.

Indeed, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office policies give officers sound and sensible guidelines surrounding such chases, while leaving them the discretion to do their job of protecting society.

The officer had stopped this car on Reynolds Street after observing erratic driving that was also allegedly over the speed limit. When the driver sped off, the deputy had an obligation to try to find out why. Some major crimes have been solved by “routine” traffic stops.

What if this had been another car, for instance, and a person inside was in mortal danger at the hands of a criminal? Given the opportunity to nab such a suspect, an officer surely would’ve been faulted for not doing so if, down the road, the worst had happened to the victim inside.

Moreover, if word got out that officers just allowed anyone to escape justice by outrunning them, you’d only have more high-speed crashes – and a criminal element encouraged to endanger the public.

In addition, this particular chase occurred after 2 a.m., on streets largely devoid of other traffic.

Law enforcement officers must be allowed to exercise such discretion, as this one did.

And in our concern over how a high-speed chase ends, we must not dismiss how it begins.

2 North Augusta brothers killed during police chase

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