When a LaGrange police officer pulled behind 25-year-old Cordarius Cortez Bailey’s Toyota Camry Aug. 13, the officer’s intention was to issue him a citation for not wearing his seat belt.
Instead, Bailey took off, taking police on a chase through out residential areas on the south side of LaGrange, stretching from Whitesville Road over to Dallis Street and Brownwood Avenue down to Fourth Avenue, up to Park Avenue, before finally coming to an end at the intersection of Handley Street and Whitesville Road. According to the police report, at one point speeds topped 81 mph.
“We don’t have any speed caps on how fast they [officers] can drive vehicles,” explained Lt. Mark Kostial with LaGrange Police Department’s Patrol Division. “But it’s with due regard. We weigh the need to apprehend the motorist versus putting others in danger or other motorists.”
Kostial said LaGrange police officers also factor in time of day, day of the week, if it’s during school hours, and weather conditions among other things.
“We’re not going to be pursuing someone during that time. It’s not reasonable to pursue folks during high concentrations of traffic or pedestrians,” Kostial said. ” But there are no areas we’re prohibited in pursuing.”
Bailey’s high speed chase took place just after 6 p.m. He nearly took out a pedestrian, missed hitting several parked cars, and even drove on the wrong side of the road in some places. Again, all at a high rate of speed.
“If we can direct them out of residential areas, we can limit danger to innocent third parties or damage to property,” explained Kostial.
According to Kostial, high speed chases involving the LaGrange Police Department typically last less than a minute and less than a mile. Last year, officers were involved in 13 pursuits, as of right now, they’ve only been apart of six chases through the city streets. Kostial also said since 2011, the LaGrange Police Department has elected to have their officers go through quarterly driver’s training at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, as well as the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and at the State of Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
While there, officers learn non emergency and emergency vehicle operations, vehicle pursuit training and precision immobilization techniques, commonly known at the P.I.T. maneuver.
“We don’t chase just for anything,” explained Kostial. ” We limit the number of officers in pursuit. We have policies in place that determine how long a pursuit can continue.”
LaGrange police only allow two patrol cars to be in pursuit of a vehicle. They may also deploy the K9 unit, but that is left up to the discretion of the on shift supervisor. It’s also up to them to decide how they may try and stop a high speed driver.
In Wednesday’s pursuit, officers first opted to try the P.I.T. maneuver, but couldn’t find a safe area to do it. That’s when the decision was made to use the stop sticks at the corner of Handley and Whitesville Road. Those would have deflated the tires on Bailey’s car, causing him to come to a slow stop.
Instead, Bailey saw the sticks and tried to maneuver around them. According to the report, he then lost control of his car and slammed into a tree.
“Usually the reason people are running is for a misdemeanor offense,” said Kostial. “If you’re doing that, then pull over. In this latest incident, the guy [Bailey] is now being charged with fleeing and attempting to elude and obstruction, and is being processed as a felony. He totaled his vehicle and had minor injuries to his arm, so now he has medical bills on top of it.”
Bailey is out on bond and also faces charges of reckless driving, reckless conduct, driving on a suspended license, seat belt violation, failure to maintain lane, and stop sign violations.
According to Kostial, the high speed chase is now under the review by the shift commander, the division commander, and will be sent to the internal department of the office of professional standards. All three parties will look over the responding officer’s report and dash cam footage to make sure everything they did is in compliance with the LaGrange Police Department’s pursuit policies and procedures. Kostial said this review is typical in an incident like this, and as of right now there are no concerns of inappropriate driving by the LPD officers.