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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2007
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EDITORIAL

King panders to voters’ emotions in latest proposal

Alabama Attorney General Troy King wants to put in prison for up to 20 years those who flee police.

On the surface, Mr. King’s proposed legislation sounds great to voters. Its tough-on-crime approach is just the thing conservative Alabamians crave.

But Mr. King’s bill, sponsored by state Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Bayou La Batre, and approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week, is more splash than substance, and could significantly aggravate the state’s already dire prison-overcrowding problem.

Mr. Collier, a former state trooper, said the bill could save lives: “All we are doing is making a crime out of something that is bad and has caused people to get killed.”

Yes, it is true that those who flee police in a vehicle endanger the lives of those around them. But it is also true that fleeing police is already a crime and there are other laws already on the books to cover more serious offenses when bystanders are injured or killed.

The truth is the proposed stiffer penalty will do nothing to deter those who flee from law enforcement because those who do so are already thinking irrationally rather than considering the consequences of their actions.

Here is a hypothetical situation: Your teenage son who recently received his license is out with friends. He runs a stop sign, as teens are wont to do. A police officer spots the violation and attempts to stop the driver.

Panicked and nervous, your son makes a flawed decision. He steps on the gas in an attempt to elude police and impress his friends. As is nearly always the case in such circumstances, the driver doesn’t get far. Police radios travel much faster than a speeding car.

Now imagine the public outcry when a judge must sentence your son to two to 20 years in prison for that unfortunate decision. It would be devastating to your son as well as your family. And it would add to an overburdened prison system already filled with non-violent offenders.

Certainly, drivers must be held accountable when they choose to flee from police. Such actions endanger the driver, the officers and those around them.

But laws already in effect are sufficient. Making it a felony to flee police is too drastic a proposal and would do more harm than good.

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