A 42-year-old Homewood woman died in a traffic crash in Vestavia Hills last week. Robyn Naftel Herring two young daughters are left without a mother. The staff at UAB Hospital, where Herring was a nurse practitioner, is mourning a colleague. Herring was an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time when Jordan Ricks crashed his Nissan Juke into a Jeep in which Herring was a passenger as it traveled along Lakeshore Avenue.
Ricks, a former University of Alabama Birmingham football player, had driven off from a traffic stop and was being pursued by police. The pursuing officer stopped to help crash victims and Ricks got away, but was arrested later at an apartment in Tuscaloosa.
Two days later, a motorist in Huntsville being pursued by police was killed when his vehicle crashed.
There is no official database compiling information on police pursuits and deaths. However, a New Mexico law firm reports that between 2014 and 2018, 840 of the 2,005 people killed were occupants of vehicles not involved in the pursuit or were bicyclists or pedestrians.
In Alabama during the same period, police pursuits resulted in 65 deaths, 17 being bystanders who got in the way.
It would be unfair to judge the actions of individual officers without walking in their shoes. And clearly the responsibility begins with suspects who choose to flee rather than comply with officers.
However, the senseless death of a young mother — or anyone, for that matter — raises obvious questions about the rationale behind initiating a potentially deadly pursuit.
In the wake of these back-to-back deaths, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey should consider empaneling a committee people with expertise in the area to review police pursuit policy and guidelines, and provide recommendations for best practices to be adopted by all law enforcement agencies.
Considering the advances in technology and communication, immediate pursuit may well be unnecessary, counterproductive, and needlessly perilous.