Police pursuit sparks questions about which officers can initiate them

SDUSD police officer chased suspected drunk driver

SAN DIEGO - A police pursuit that began shortly before midnight Monday night in Valencia Park ended about five blocks away on a narrow, hilly street with several curves.

There was a chain reaction collision that woke many neighbors. No one was hurt. The suspect car had been stolen and the driver ran away.

Questions were raised about the pursuit being initiated by a school police officer rather than a city patrolman. 

San Diego Unified School District police Capt. Joe Florentino told 10News there is no issue and that school police are sworn law enforcement, too. 

"Our pursuit rules are the same as any other agency," he said. "Police pursuits are very dangerous. We have to look at the risk to the public as opposed to the risk of letting the person go. 'Can we apprehend him at a later date?'"

That is where a judgment call comes into play. The officer had just left Valencia Park Elementary School after checking a false alarm when a car with the headlights off went by. He attempted to pull the driver over but he refused and the chase began.

"In this case when you think you might have a drunk driver, it really ups the ante even though it's a misdemeanor crime because it's a serious public safety risk," said Florentino. "Drunk drivers kill people."

School police are trained at the same academy as city police. Pursuits are part of that education and it is ongoing.

"Yes, we have a mandated annual refresher on pursuits," said Florentino. "That's mandated at the state level."

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