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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2001

The chase (and the heat) is on

Toledoans have asked the same question that Police Chief Mike Navarre posed after the senseless and tragic deaths of a North end couple killed at the end of a brief high speed chase.

“Do we chase [the fleeing suspects],” asks the chief, “or do we just throw up our hands and let them go?”

The police department's policy, of course, is to chase the bad guys, and the public generally agrees with that.

Unfortunately, though rarely, a pursuit turns tragic, which happened Sunday when Ricardo N. Barney, 48, and his wife, Darlene Barney, 44, died after their vehicle was struck by a speeding stolen car in the Old West End. It was a terrible end to a chase that lasted a little more than half a minute.

Jacob Sisson, 20, has been charged with the couple's deaths and one count each of failure to obey a police order and receiving stolen property. The car he drove was stolen. A 14-year-old juvenile in that vehicle is also charged with delinquency in connection with stolen property.

The officers who pursued the suspects apparently operated within department policy. It was revised three years ago, requiring more supervisory control throughout pursuits, with consideration for traffic, weather conditions, time of day, and geographic location. Two years ago the policy came under fire when a 42-year-old woman and a teenage boy were killed, but it remains intact.

Police all across the nation use their cruisers to pursue suspects trying to get away in other vehicles. And while only 1 percent or so of all pursuits end in fatalities, that's no comfort to the families of innocent victims such as the Barneys.

Toledo police engage in about 175 chases every year, and Toledoans hope and expect that the officers will exercise good judgment and not imperil innocent bystanders.

It's a delicate balancing act and one that makes police work so difficult. A final thought: Chases that end successfully and peacefully remove very dangerous individuals from the street. That may save lives, not end them.

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