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    Prince George’s County police show DC how to catch carjackers

    By Tom Rogan,


    A major challenge of effective policing is the balancing of professionalism and public accountability with bold, proactive enforcement of the law.

    This balance has become harder to strike in recent years with the rightful arrival of police body cameras and greater accountability, but also increasingly populist and often unfairly critical anti-police attitudes by certain political leaders and advocacy groups. In turn, where officers feel that the criminals they arrest and collect prosecutable evidence against are unlikely to ever face appropriate justice, they have less incentive to risk their own careers and livelihoods to protect the public by enforcing the law. This leads to particular problems in cities such as Washington, D.C. , where legal structures are generally deferential to criminals and politicians are generally deferential to anti-police activists.

    Top line: In too many American cities, too many police officers have decided that the public benefits of making a legally justifiable police stop or responding quickly to a noncritical call for service are often outweighed by the personal risks of doing so. The result is too slow responses to 911 calls and inadequate proactive enforcement of the law.

    Fortunately, some officers continue to view calculated risk-taking in pursuit of public security as paramount. I saw a firsthand example of this while walking home to my Washington, D.C., residence on Wednesday evening. Crossing a street near to my address, I suddenly heard the blare of sirens. Looking ahead, I saw the flashing lights of a police car. A civilian vehicle was driving just ahead of the police vehicle at an extremely high rate of speed (I'd estimate 80 miles per hour). This was a busy civilian street that is home to many families with young children. Looking inside the speeding car as it drove past, I saw three young men in full face balaclavas. The pursuing police vehicle showed it was from Prince George's County Police Department. An unmarked follow-up police vehicle followed close behind. The police pursuers were driving fast but professionally. But you could tell they wanted to make arrests.

    Carrying on with my journey and ironically stumbling across a police cordon at a shooting incident closer to my address, I didn't see how the original police pursuit incident ended. But doing a search on social media, I saw a post that suggested an arrest in the 9th Street area of Washington, D.C. I then reached out to Prince George's County police about the incident. On Thursday, they responded with a statement:

    "[On Wednesday] at approximately 6:45 pm, officers responded to ... the report of an armed carjacking. Once on scene, officers spoke with the victim who was not injured. Patrol officers were able to locate the carjacked vehicle and initiated a traffic stop. The driver refused to stop. After a short pursuit that ended in Washington, DC, the occupants of the vehicle, two adult males and one juvenile male, were taken into custody. All three suspects are charged in connection with the armed carjacking."

    This is what bold, professional policing looks like. And Prince George's County police deserve great credit for it. The officers involved deserve especial credit. After all, these officers face the same public interest versus personal interest calculations that affect DC Metropolitan Police Department officers. They would have known that they would face severe public and professional consequences had they made a mistake at any point in their investigation, perhaps if they stopped the wrong vehicle, or if they were forced to engage in a firefight in a public space, or if the suspect vehicle collided with a civilian during the pursuit. Officers in Washington, D.C., were not so long ago criminally charged and convicted after a pursuit ended in a suspect's death.

    The key here is that the officers' personal incentive in responding to the carjacking would have been to conduct a cursory investigation and then pass off the case file to detectives. They could have ticked the box and closed out their shift in safety — both personal and professional.

    Instead, these officers chose to put addressing the significant public concern over carjackings in the Washington metropolitan area before their own personal interests. They took calculated but significant risks in pursuit of public safety. They chose the figurative and literal pursuit of getting carjackers off the streets and behind bars. These officers can't say what kind of plea deal Prince George's County prosecutors might now offer the charged suspects. But they made their best effort to serve public safety. And they made three arrests leading to criminal charges. They manifestly made the public safer.


    Were DC Council not driven by council members such as Charles Allen and Brianne Nadeau who care more about criminals than the taxpayers they have sworn to serve, we might one day hope to see similar policing in the nation's capital. Until then, however, Wednesday's response-detection-pursuit-arrest and evidence collection for charges offers a marker for hope.

    As my grandfather would say, " Book 'em, Danno ."

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