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Troopers steered by discretion when chasing suspects
Number of chases down despite high profile case in June
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Georgia State Patrol chases

• 2015 statewide pursuits: 593

• 2015 pursuits in Hall County: 13

With a situation developing in seconds, the decision by law enforcement officers to pursue a fleeing vehicle involves a quick assessment of the variables on the road.

“It’s such a dynamic event that’s happening and rapidly unfolding that it’s hard to pigeonhole it into a ‘this is how we do it,’” Georgia State Patrol Capt. Mark Perry said. “This is why the policy gives a lot of latitude as far as discretion on when to terminate or when to pursue.”

In 2015, there were 593 pursuits reported by state patrol, a drop from 655 reported pursuits in 2014.

Thirteen pursuits were reported in Hall County, a number that has held steady from 2013.

On June 25, during the state patrol’s Operation Rolling Thunder highway enforcement effort, troopers pursued Rodrigo Guardiola, 36, of Gainesville, who reportedly fled a road check and was chased from Ga. 53 to Queen City Parkway until reaching Industrial Boulevard.

According to Perry, the pursuit led to a crash outside of Industrial Boulevard and two men left the vehicle and the chase continued on foot.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Guardiola fought with Sgt. Auston Allen and attempted to “submerge and hold Sgt. Allen underwater” in a creek.

Allen used a Taser with no effect before shooting and killing Guardiola with his service weapon.

Two other officers were hospitalized briefly for injuries in the scuffle.

Allen was placed on administrative leave for five days and has returned to work. When reached by phone, Allen said he is “doing well,” but he did not wish to comment further.

Allen and Perry both declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

When analyzing conditions before starting a chase, Perry said a trooper will often look at the grading on the road, the visibility, the weather and other variables.

In 2015, 98 pursuits were terminated due to “officer discretion.” Perry said traffic conditions will often be a reason to cancel the chase.

“If it’s 2:30 or a quarter to 3 (p.m.) and you know there are some elementary schools around, you’re going to terminate those,” he said, to avoid end-of-day school traffic.

According to the Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office, officers are justified to pursue if there is a belief the violator has or is attempting to commit a violent crime: murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and first-degree arson.

The policy also allows for a pursuit if there is a “significant possibility that the escape will pose a substantial threat to the safety of any citizen of member of the department.”

According to the state patrol’s written policy, a precision immobilization technique, or PIT maneuver, to stop a vehicle being pursued “is considered a use of force and the trooper’s/officer’s individual actions must be objectively reasonable.”

“The PIT maneuver will only be executed when the need to stop the pursuit is immediate,” according to the policy.

According to the 2015 data, the PIT maneuver was used in 116 pursuits.

“When we perform a PIT maneuver, that is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and it says it has to be reasonable,” Perry said. “And it has to be reasonable based on what’s going on at that moment.”

After a pursuit, a troop officer or unit commander will meet with the trooper and one of the trooper’s supervisors to review video footage of the pursuit and compare it with the state patrol’s policy. The report is then sent to the commanding officer in Atlanta.

“He gets the final review of whether he accepts the critique as being substantiated and whether there’s any discipline needed,” Perry said.

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