After a high-speed chase along Route 299 in Lloyd ended with the death of a New Paltz woman whose vehicle was hit head-on in a July 1 incident, locals are seeking to better understand why such pursuits occur. In short, the involved officer must factor a lot of information in a short amount of time to make that decision.
Danielle Pecoraro, 39 of New Paltz, died when her vehicle was hit head-on by a Porsche Cayenne being driven by 29-year-old Ryan Williams of Poughkeepsie. Williams was fleeing from police at a high rate of speed at the time.
It was Lloyd officers who were called about Williams’ erratic driving, and when he raced off westbound on 299, it was they who initiated a pursuit later joined by New York State Police officers as well.
Town of Lloyd’s police chief, Daniel Waage, said that while some parts of the policy — focused on tactics and specific responses — would not disclosed publicly, “I am willing to say this at this time, pursuits or attempting to stop a vehicle is always a dangerous task. Many variables must be taken into consideration. For instance, weather, road conditions, traffic, pedestrians . . . must be weighed against the danger that the vehicle that law enforcement is attempting to stop poses.
“Considerations such as severity of crimes believed to have been committed or recklessness of the operator who law enforcement is attempting to stop, and his or her actions and potential danger to the public if law enforcement does not attempt to stop, must also be taken into consideration when making such decisions. These variables may change extremely quickly and must be evaluated in real time by the officer attempting to stop the offending vehicle.”
New Paltz police chief Joseph Snyder also provided feedback. Like Waage, Snyder declined to comment on the specific incident, in this case because he’s just not familiar with the details. He quoted portions of the policy directly, starting with, “The decision to initiate pursuit must be based on the pursuing officer’s conclusion that the immediate danger to the officer and the public created by the pursuit is less than the immediate or potential danger to the public should the suspect remain at large,” echoing Waage’s description.
“Any law enforcement officer in an authorized emergency vehicle may initiate a vehicular pursuit when the suspect exhibits the intention to avoid apprehension by refusing to stop when properly directed to do so,” the New Paltz policy continues. As in Lloyd, it includes a list of factors such as road conditions and population density, as well as the “relative performance capabilities of the pursuit vehicle and the vehicle being pursued.”
Snyder noted that the policy in New Paltz, which appears quite similar to that in neighboring Lloyd, meets state accreditation standards and fits the best practices recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Officers in that town take an emergency vehicle operation course every other year, which two New Paltz officers are certified to teach. In addition, policies and incidents are reviewed on an ongoing basis, Snyder said.
While Waage did not immediately respond to follow-up questions, presumably the Lloyd department has similar safeguards and training regimens in place.