Omaha Police Pursuits
When it comes to police pursuits with injuries in Omaha, taxpayers have been on the hook an average of $700,000 every year for the past 12 years. WOWT Six News has uncovered word that Omaha police are calling off pursuits more often and, in some cases, they are avoided all together.
Two years ago, Gino Main crashed a stolen pickup truck in South Omaha. He said, "I was just trying to get away so I wouldn't catch anymore charges."
Main severely injured a man who was walking home from dinner.
Officers followed but never pursued. They even turned off their lights and sirens hoping other cruisers might see the fleeing pickup.
For years, the courts have often ruled that when drivers elude police, the suspects still believe they are being chased. That impression can, by itself, still make it a pursuit, leaving taxpayers on the hook for any injuries to innocent third parties.
But not this time.
City of Omaha Deputy Attorney Tom Mumgaard said, "That videotape was instrumental in saving the city $1,000,000."
The city also won a 2008 case in which video from Wash World at 26th and Leavenworth shows a motorcycle crashing into a pole, killing the driver.
At the time, the lone survivor, passenger Mark Hunter, told WOWT Six News, “We was bumped."
Asked to clarify that claim, he said, “We was bumped by the police."
Hunter claimed that the pursuit was not terminated prior to the crash.
“It was never called off,” he said. “They followed us every inch of the way."
The video tells a different story and after viewing it, Hunter admitted that the police didn't cause the crash. Police never bumped the motorcycle. The cruiser was three blocks away when the motorcycle hit the pole.
The courts ruled that there is a difference between an active attempt to apprehend someone and observing a fleeing motorcycle after an attempted traffic stop.
Mumgaard said, “In both of these cases the officers made the choice, ‘no, I'm not going to chase this guy.’ They did it right. It was really good police work."
Mumgaard says the most recent case shows how the investment the city and police department made in cruiser cameras pays off; that video evidence is such a key in explaining a pursuit or no pursuit.
Command staff at OPD headquarters continually monitors the risks of chases. It's not that they won't pursue a suspect, they want to make sure they have good reasons to do so.