HOUSTON – Monday’s deadly chase in west Houston is raising questions about police chases and how they are handled.
“As bad as the officers feel about something like this, it goes down to one person, and it’s that felon who fled in a motor vehicle and ended up taking somebody’s life,” said Ray Hunt, Executive Director for the Houston Police Officer’s Union.
Hunt said the death of 35-year-old Carl Wiley Jr. could have been avoided if 20-year-old Cameron Rogers had not taken off and led police on a chase.
“We don’t have 20/20 hindsight to say, ‘I know what the guy was fleeing for.’ We can’t judge that,” said Hunt. “So, your only options are to either have a reasonable chase policy, which we believe that we have, or have no chase policy, which is what some other cities have.”
Surveillance video shows officers trying to approach Rogers’ car, which was seen parked in a handicap spot at a convenience store. Houston police said officers with their patrol car lights on tried to talk to him before he drove off.
Hunt said it was that action that elevated any potential Class C misdemeanor Rogers might have faced into a felony.
“As soon as he failed to stop for the lights and sirens on the police car, he’s committing a felony and that person needs to be stopped. We don’t know what that person has done.” Hunt said. “It’s very, very rare for a person to flee in a motor vehicle that’s not wanted for something very serious. It’s very rare.”
It turns out Rogers was on deferred adjudication for an aggravated robbery from January 2022. That’s information retired HPD sergeant Shelby Stewart said officers wouldn’t have initially known had it not been for the chase.
“For years, you’ve had police officers in Black, Brown, and poor communities stop people in order to search for a reason in order to arrest them but not have the probable cause to stop them,” said Stewart, who is also a community activist.
Stewart said its important command staff ensures officers are sticking to the current chase policy enacted in 2018. That policy states officers should take weather, population density and traffic all into account.
“All those things must come together,” Stewart said. “He (the officer) has to make that assessment while he’s in that chase, and if the chase becomes too dangerous, the officer can terminate the chase.”
Hunt said he believes the city’s chase policy is reasonable.
“Obviously, if it’s pouring down raining and the streets are slick and you’ve got heavy traffic and a school zone, a reasonable officer is gonna say ‘I’m not going to pursue this person,’” he said. “But if you’ve got decent conditions and you don’t know what the person is wanted for, but you know they’re committing a felony, there are very few officers that they’re gonna say I’m not gonna pursue that person.”
He said getting rid of chases altogether could result in more crime.
“If you don’t have chases, what you’re doing is saying to the dishonest person that the person who’s failing to comply with the law gets away Scot-free, and in most cases, they do,” Hunt said.