INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time following a pair of tragic deaths this year, the Indiana State Police superintendent talks about whether the agency will review or change any policies regarding police pursuits.
The two trooper deaths this year, Aaron Smith and James Bailey, both took place during high-speed pursuits as the troopers tried to deploy stop sticks.
Superintendent Doug Carter admits he will review whether the risk of that practice outweighs the benefits, but right now he does not expect any changes to be made.
“I don’t anticipate changes because I think the community expects us to have those tools and use them, even when we put ourselves in harm’s way,” said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter.
In late June, a high-speed chase of a stolen SUV ended in tragedy on Ronald Reagan Parkway with the death of Indiana State Trooper Aaron Smith.
“Trooper Smith knew that because of the reckless behavior of this driver, it was important that he got the vehicle stopped and I believe that’s why he did what he did,” said Carter.
INDOT video of the deadly pursuit shows the driver of the stolen SUV swerve sharply to the right at exact moment trooper Smith tossed stop sticks into the road.
“We will talk about this scenario in great detail with everybody,” said Carter. “I feel tremendous responsibility.”
Carter said Trooper Smith had just finished in-service training on the use of stop sticks before he was killed. Trooper Smith also had an intern riding with him the night of the fatal crash. It’s impossible to know if that impacted how he parked his car or deployed his stop sticks.
Carter said an internal and peer review will evaluate trooper Smith’s death.
“There’s multiple steps we will engage to make us better, but what we can’t do is get into the mind of Aaron Smith,” said Carter.
Less than four months before Smith’s death, in March, a different crash on I-69 near Fort Wayne killed Master Trooper James Bailey. Carter said Bailey was about to pull stop sticks out of his trunk to de-escalate a pursuit, but didn’t have time to put them in the road when he was hit and killed.
The safety of tire deflation devices has been debated for years.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, more than a dozen officers have died across the country over the last 10 years while deploying stop sticks.
Over a decade ago, the FBI issued a law enforcement bulletin warning about their dangers.
Still, Carter doesn’t expect to change when his troopers use stop sticks.
In May of this year, IMPD amended their General Orders restricting officers from initiating pursuits of stolen vehicles. Carter again insists his agency won’t change their policy to match.
“I’m sure they vetted that appropriately, but that’s not something I’m going to do,” said Carter. “We at ISP, as long as I’m here, we are not going to stop pursuing vehicles. When people commit crimes, I think the community should expect us to do everything in our power to get them stopped.”
Of course, no one is blaming Trooper Smith or Trooper Bailey for how they died. The two drivers accused of causing the deadly crashes have both been charged with murder.