Local Police Accused of Violating Pursuit Policy

Garland Police Unit
Garland Police Unit | Image by Garland Police Department/Facebook

An innocent bystander who was severely injured during a high-speed Garland police chase last year is questioning whether officers violated their pursuit policy.

On October 2, 2023, 24-year-old Stephen Dorfman of Rockwall and his 3-year-old son Archer found themselves in the middle of a high-speed pursuit after leaving a Walmart off Lakeview Parkway in Rowlett. Assisted by Rowlett police, Garland officers were pursuing a juvenile driving a red Kia Soul that had been reported stolen.

The suspect plowed into Dorfman’s truck, making it flip twice. Dorfman was knocked unconscious and woke up with broken ribs, broken vertebrae, and a collapsed lung. Archer was left unscathed, as well as the passengers of several other vehicles struck at the same intersection by the stolen vehicle.

As Dorfman explained in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, he suffered a tremendous financial loss as a result of the accident, which Garland risk manager Brandon Johnson argued was 100% the driver’s fault in a letter rejecting Dorfman’s claim. The fact that Garland police were pursuing the suspect at the time was not mentioned.

A subsequent open records request made by Dorfman to obtain information about the pursuit also yielded a blank — literally. The City of Garland sent him eight pages that had been entirely blacked out.

Garland Police Chief Jeff Bryan has also refused all attempts of Dorfman’s father, Jay Dorfman, to reach him by phone.

The doctrine of qualified immunity police upheld by most states protects public employees, such as police officers, from individual liability. Yet this is often not the case when these employees engage in illegal activity, infringe upon a constitutional right, or violate procedure. Dorfman believes that Garland police behaved in such a way as to challenge immunity provisions, yet he has yet to find a lawyer to represent him.

Garland police pursuit policy states that officers are duty-bound to “discontinue the pursuit if any pursuing officer reasonably believes the risk of injury or death outweighs the need for the immediate apprehension of the suspects.”

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the think tank Police Executive Research Forum, refers to such policies as requiring officers to learn how to balance the risk during pursuits — the risk not only to innocent bystanders but also to themselves and to the suspects they are pursuing.

“A lot of this has to do with the new thinking in policing today, which is about proportionality,” Wexler said, according to The Associated Press.

For instance, in Dallas, 96% of vehicle chases conducted by the Dallas Police Department involve a felony offense or an armed suspect, according to CBS News Texas.

Yet a recent study using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that the number of crashes involving a police chase has increased across the state. Meanwhile, the number of deaths resulting from them has doubled from 34 in 2011 to 72 in 2021.

In light of these figures, some police departments are reviewing their pursuit policies or looking for new ways to shore up safety.

As recently reported in The Dallas Express, White Settlement police recently unveiled a new technology aimed at minimizing risk and maximizing results during car chases. Developed by StarChase, the upgrade will allow officers to launch and affix a GPS tracker on suspects’ vehicles.

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