A little background: Downtown Raleigh was recently shutdown during the afternoon commute when a former resident of the state mental hospital took it upon himself to carjack a taxi with a straight razor. He was chased through the government district until he stopped just a few blocks from the state capitol. He exited his vehicle with the razor in his hand and was shot twice by a Raleigh police officer when he refused to drop the weapon.
What we didn’t know until today was that two of Raleigh’s finest committed a unpardonable sin against the nanny state: They did not wear their seat belts during the chase.
Now, I understand that even police officers are supposed to follow the same laws as the rest of us and it was also the OFFICIAL policy of the Raleigh Police Dept. for officers to wear a seat belt, but come on.
Have we gotten to the point that laws to protect individuals from themselves trump public safety? If I ever run into a razor wielding (former)mental patient in the midst of him committing a felony, I really don’t mind if the officers responding to the scene left their seat belts off.
In fact, law enforcement officers often unhook their seat belt if they think they will have to rapidly exit a vehicle in pursuit of a suspect. I have a good friend who served in Baltimore with the FBI who would always take off his seat belt when he entered some of the worst areas of the city.
What societal impact does not wearing your seat belt have? (Communitarians out there will tell you that it will cause insurance costs to rise and afflict the rest of us.) The real impact of not wearing the nanny strap is much more personal and immediate. You feel it when your chest hits the steering wheel in an accident. Its one of those self rewarding punishments.
Which brings us full circle to the reason we now know that officers Younker and Clifton didn’t have their belts on: They hit a bystander’s car enroute to the scene.
So badge wearers beware! The next time you are trying to get to the scene and stop blood from running in the street, make sure you have your seat belt on!