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home : opinion : columns April 29, 2016

4/29/2014 11:35:00 AM
Column: A feeling we've been let down

Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

Some titles demand more of the people who hold them. We expect our parents, our teachers, our children's teachers, our leaders, our doctors and our clergy to somehow be perfect.

At or near the top of our list of People Who Must Not Let Us Down are law enforcement officers.

We expect them to never falter, much less fail. We require them to make the correct decision every time, regardless of the circumstances.

We believe they can see into the immediate future and take steps to avoid impending tragedy. We expect them to know the ex-convict they're chasing is going to run a stop sign and kill a beloved member of our community.

Maybe we have a point with that last one. There's justification in expecting law enforcement officers to know when it's too dangerous to keep up a pursuit - it's not like they don't call them off as a matter of routine.

Not too long ago, some punk stole a pickup that a Kingman Daily Miner contract delivery driver left running in front of Circle K one cold morning on Stockton Hill Road at Gordon Drive.

Officers from the Kingman Police and Arizona Department of Public Safety, along with deputies from the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, chased the guy through and around Kingman for a couple of hours.

These were short chases that ended when the pursuit approached residential areas, or when school buses were on the road, or speeds got too high.

We don't know what happened last week, other than a tragedy occurred and 66-year-old Linda Chevalier has gone on to her reward. The man who sent her there is looking at spending a good chunk of whatever time he has left in this world in prison.

We also know the Department of Public Safety will conduct parallel investigations, one dealing with the events leading to Chevalier's death and the other with how those events played out.

There are questions that need to be answered.

Did the DPS officer follow pursuit policy? What is that policy? Are densely populated residential neighborhoods no pursuit zones?

If not, they should be.

And was it even a pursuit? Were there 10 cops driving 10 lit up squad cars with utterly reckless abandon like in the movies? Or was it closer to a less aggressive pursuit, along the lines of staying on someone's tail?

Was the DPS officer leading the way or is the DPS taking the hit because it was their investigation that led to lifelong criminal Robert James Dodd, 41, going rabbit and killing a wholly innocent and, by all accounts, remarkable woman?

While the estimated 45 mph Dodd was driving when he slammed into Chevalier's car is certainly fast enough to cause death and massive property damage, does 45 mph qualify as a high-speed chase?

When did the chase begin? Did the crash occur right out of the gate or was this more of an hour-long L.A. freeway with a news helicopter providing play-by-play kind of pursuit?

People might question if the DPS is the proper agency to conduct the investigation into the pursuit. Crashes involving law enforcement are usually investigated by an outside agency, but the DPS officer involved in the pursuit is a member of the state's multi-agency Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission task force.

Not only is this an awkward mouthful of a name with an aggressive sounding acronym, GIITEM includes detectives from DPS, Mohave County, Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City.

It may prove difficult to find an independent third-party agency to investigate in order to maintain public confidence.

That's another problem certain title-holders have. Most people don't pay consequences until they actually engage in impropriety. For parents, teachers, leaders, docs, clergy and cops, even the appearance of impropriety is a crime.

My advice? Take a deep breath and wait for the facts to come out. They almost always do, eventually.

In the meantime, Linda Chevalier's family undoubtedly remains deep in the throes of seemingly unbearable grief. I imagine Sunday services were somber at St. John's United Methodist Church, where Chevalier was involved in just about everything.

I imagine the officers who participated in the pursuit have contemplated what happened in those quiet moments late at night, when nobody's looking.

I imagine Robert James Dodd is in his Phoenix hospital bed, blaming everybody else for all the trouble he is in.

I wonder if he has donated a single thought to all the heartbreak he's caused.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2014
Article comment by: Amaryllis McElyea Smith

Law enforcement already has the license plate entered into dispatch before they get that car pulled over or attempt to, this officer knew what and who he was dealing with and just because the criminal was doing 45 doesn't mean the officer was at high speed.
What is the speed limit on Bond off of Northern?
Let the investigations play out before condemning the officer instead of crook.

Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2014
Article comment by: Police Chief and Sheriff Need to Call for Oversight Committees

This community is large enough to have citizen review boards. We entrust these men & woman to protect and serve and we need to demand oversight. We need to step up and share that responsibility. We all recognize the difficult job policing is. And we all know we are dealing with humans who make mistakes, use poor judgment, and perhaps do things just plain evil. This statement applies to criminals as well as LEOs. There have been too many episodes where mistakes clearly have been made by cops. There've been several episodes where innocent citizens have suffered because of these mistakes. If the head of these policing entities were truly interested in improving their departments, they would be the first to advocate for a citizens oversight committee. I'm sure any LEO can name 1 or 2 in their departments unable to correctly handle tense or volatile situations and should not be charges with such a responsibility. It's in the departments' best interests, our community's best interest, and the innocent's best interest to correct situations before another innocent victim. I am surprised the U.S. Justice Dept. or the state attorney general, or a higher office hasn't been brought in on some of these cases. If not corrected, this will happen.

Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Article comment by: @ another thought

I've been pulled over for speeding many times abs only 1 officer was one scene and I've seen many pulled over with just 1 officer there. Yes there have been times where there are 2 but probably for a good reason. I went on a ride along and the officer got someone for DUI and another person for drugs abs still just that 1 cop on scene. This is real life we are talking about but "cops"

Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Article comment by: Rick O'Shea

There is an old saying, "Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes".

Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Article comment by: Another Thought

"Were there 10 cops driving 10 lit up squad cars with utterly reckless abandon like in the movies? "

You are probably more correct than you think. You get pulled over for a speeding ticket, usually a minimum of two units would be on scene, a DUI, at least three to four. So 10 cars for a car chase is entirely possible.

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