On January 2, 2003, thieves stole a wallet at the Redfish restaurant and jumped into a getaway Dodge Intrepid driven by Lakesha Smith. Police started to pursue, and were called off the chase; one sergeant disregarded the order, and continued pursuit, though never faster than 30 mph. Five minutes later, the Intrepid ran a red light, hit an SUV, and then richocheted into a pedestrian, 25-year-old Qing Chang. Smith and another passenger have been charged with murder; a hearing is pending December 12.
But meanwhile, a civil jury has already determined that Smith and her passenger were only 25% responsible—which makes Chicago taxpayers entirely responsible for a $17.5 million award. Chicago has changed its chase procedures, though, of course, citizens killed by criminals who aren’t caught will have no cause of action against Chicago or the trial lawyers who forced Chicago into adopting a policy that makes lawsuit prevention more important than crime prevention. And it’s not clear what good changing the policy does if Chicago can still be held liable if a police officer disobeys orders to stop a chase. (Frank Main, “City slapped with $17.5 mil. judgment”, Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 25; NBC5, “City To Appeal $17.5 Million Police Chase Crash Verdict”, Oct. 25; Ben Bradley, “Charges filed in wake of local chase”, ABC7 Chicago, Jan. 5, 2003). See also: Mar. 29, Mar. 15 and links therein.