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Bill Aims to Limit Liability of Police Officers in Car Chases

Brian Grimmett
File: Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, on the House floor

A bill aimed at removing a police officer’s liability for the injury or death of a fleeing suspect passed out of the Utah House today.

Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden,  is sponsoring HB20 in response to a court cause brought against Weber County and Weber County sheriff’s Deputy Denton Harper. In March of 2010 Harper was involved in a high-speed chase with 16-year-old Wayne Torrie. The chase ended when Torrie turned off of a road, into a ditch, flipping the vehicle. Torrie died in the crash. In August of last year the Utah Supreme Court ruled that the family didn’t have a right to sue the county, but could sue the sheriff’s deputy that was driving.

Rep. Dee says the bill is an attempt to fix the law so that in the future, officers won’t be afraid to pursue suspects who flee.

“There’s no way an officer can initiate a pursuit and understand what the suspect might do," Dee says. "And if we expect our officers to do that by some clairvoyance our officers will cease to pursue.”

But Rep. Brian King,D-Salt Lake, says he’s very worried about the latitude this bill could give to police officers.

“It’s not right to put in place an immunity to allow individuals to violate standards of care that are in place without consequence,” King says.

A similar bill was introduced into the Senate last year but never received a vote. 

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