Search
Close this search box.

J.P.D. officer did not engage in a pursuit and thus was not in violation of no pursuit policy

Facts

Rakasha Adams was an officer with the Jackson Police Department. During one shift, after witnessing a red Pontiac G6 run a stop sign and force another vehicle off the road, Officer Adams initiated blue lights to conduct a traffic stop. The vehicle did not immediately stop. Officer Adams followed behind the vehicle for 1.23 miles for approximately four minutes, traveling between ten and twenty miles per hour.

During that time, Adams radioed dispatch to run the Pontiac tag and discovered the Pontiac had not been stolen and belonged to Crystalline Barnes. Adams also radioed Corporal Albert Taylor, who was on patrol nearby, and asked him to “assist” her with “pulling over the car.” Taylor assisted and positioned his patrol car behind Adams and began to follow Adams.

At some point as they approached a traffic light, Taylor was separated from Adams and the Pontiac. Adams and the Pontiac made it through the intersection on the green light, but it changed to red for Taylor. He stopped at the light and waited for the light to turn green again. Once the traffic light changed to green, Taylor continued and found Adams and the Pontiac at the end of a residential street.

The Pontiac then accelerated and ran into Taylor’s patrol car head-on. Both Adams and Taylor got out of their patrol cars and saw the Pontiac accelerate again, but this time it went toward Taylor in what both officers thought was an attempt to run Taylor over. As a result, both officers fired their weapons at the car, and the driver was killed. Jackson Police Department suspended both officers for 90 days without pay for engaging in a “pursuit” while Jackson had a “no-pursuit policy.”

Adams appealed to the Civil Service Commission, and after a hearing, the Commission affirmed the suspension. After the circuit court affirmed the Commission’s decision, Officer Adams appealed and alleges before this Court that the Commission’s decision was made without substantial evidence and was arbitrary and capricious. We agree that the Commission’s decision was contrary to the substantial evidence, arbitrary, and capricious, and we reverse the circuit court’s judgment confirming that decision. We remand the case to the Commission for a determination of restitution consistent with this opinion.

Analysis

Here, the record clearly shows that there is an undeniable difference between a routine traffic stop, which is not a violation of JPD’s pursuit policy, and a pursuit, which is a violation. Moreover, the City could not articulate an explanation as to why Officer Adams’s actions were not a traffic stop or at what moment the traffic stop escalated to a pursuit, and the Commission failed to consider this important aspect.

Officer Adams testified, without dispute, that she was not attempting to “apprehend a suspect” or “make an arrest.” She stated that she could have written a ticket or given a verbal warning. She also stated that she did not believe the driver’s behavior was evasive and that she had to make a “judgment call.” She explained officers are accustomed to individuals not immediately pulling over due to safety concerns when stopped for traffic offenses.

She stated: Drivers may not feel safe at that time; they may be going to their house to park their vehicle because they don’t want their vehicle towed; they may be in the middle of the highway, and they have to pull over to the side, or they may be pulling into a store. . . . If you are working on the night shift, it may be too dark in that area, and they may be going to a store. There are plenty of reasons that a car is not going to stop as soon as you flip your blue lights.

A review of the uncontradicted evidence produced at the Commission hearing demonstratively proved the decision by the Commission was contrary to the substantial evidence. It is without dispute Officer Adams witnessed the Pontiac driving carelessly by rolling past the stop sign and weaving and running another vehicle off the road. It is without dispute that Officer Adams and the driver of the Pontiac were not speeding and only traveled at speeds between ten and twenty miles per hour. It is without dispute the entire incident lasted less than four minutes and involved 1.23 miles in distance.

It is without dispute that neither Corporal Taylor nor Officer Adams used patrol-car sirens. It is without dispute Corporal Taylor stopped at a traffic light while assisting Officer Adams, and when it turned red, he waited for the light to change to green before he moved.

It is without dispute the Pontiac driver demonstrated no evasive behavior. It is without dispute that Corporal Taylor did not radio dispatch about a “pursuit” because he never considered the events to be a “pursuit.” It is without dispute Corporal Taylor and Officer Adams both testified that it was not a pursuit. In addition, Corporal Taylor, as a ranking officer who knew the pursuit policy and had years of experience, testified that he did not believe their actions constituted a “pursuit.”

Expert Chief Mark Dunston, an individual with thirty-five years of police experience and instructor at the police academy, testified Officer Adams’s actions were not a pursuit, and he would teach this in his class as a “non-pursuit.” All these reasons combined proved by substantial evidence that Officer Adams and Corporal Taylor were correct in their “judgment call” that the events that occurred were not a “pursuit” and not in violation of the policy that was used to suspend Officer Adams for ninety days without pay.

After reviewing the record, we find that the circuit court erred by upholding the Civil Service Commission’s finding that Officer Adams was engaged in a “pursuit.” The clear and substantial evidence was uncontradicted and proved that there was no pursuit. Therefore, we find the Commission’s findings were not supported by substantial evidence and were arbitrary and capricious, and we reverse the circuit court’s judgment and remand the case to the Commission for a determination of restitution consistent with this opinion.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/images/Opinions/CO167906.pdf