NEWPORT, VT - You’ve seen television programs that feature high speed police chases in big cities. But, they don’t happen here, or do they?
Newport City Police Chief J. Paul Duquette said his officers have a couple to a half dozen chases every year.
“The department recognizes its responsibility to apprehend criminals and lawbreakers,” states the Newport City Police Department's Police and Vehicle Pursuit and Emergency Operation Policy. “It also recognizes that higher responsibility to protect and foster the safety of all persons in the operation of police vehicles under pursuit conditions. Officers operating under pursuit conditions shall be constantly aware that no assignment is too important and no task is to be expedited with such emphasis that any of the basic principles of safety are jeopardized. Therefore, officers shall only engage in pursuits when the need for apprehension outweighs the risk to the officer and the public. Finally, officers shall be held accountable for the consequences of reckless disregard for the safety of others and violations of this procedure. In initiating any pursuit the officer shall carefully consider the fact, the driving environment, the seriousness of the offense, the need for apprehension, the possible consequences and the safety of all persons.”
So what does this all mean?
“You have to have a good reason for pursuing them,” answered Duquette. “It's gotta be either a felony or reckless driving or incidents that lead to operation under the influence or suspension.”
Apparently, that’s what happened in the early hours of Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. Sgt. Seth DiSanto saw a truck fishtail several times as it left a downtown parking lot. The driver of the truck, later identified as 35-year-old James Longley of Derby, also didn’t use a directional signal as he turned from the parking lot to Coventry Street.
DiSanto radioed Officer Tanner Jacobs to stop the vehicle. Jacobs and Officer Travis Bingham, in the same cruiser, followed the truck from the Long Bridge to Mount Vernon Street where they attempted to stop Longley.
Instead of stopping, Longley increased his speed and continued towards Pine Hill Road. Longley briefly lost control of the truck and nearly hit a utility pole before driving on several lawns.
Officer Charles Moulton took over the pursuit and chased Longley to the Crawford Road, and from there onto the Derby Road towards Charleston. At one-point speeds were greater than 100 mph. Near the Durgin Road, Longley fishtailed and nearly struck Moulton’s cruiser before heading back to Derby.
Newport City Police Officer David Jacobs, who was waiting on Route 105 near Dane Hill Road, had to move his cruiser so Longley would not hit it.
Police deflated the truck’s tires with spike strips near Rock Road. The front driver's side tire came off the rim and rolled down the road. Police, for a second time, deployed spikes at the intersection of Route 105 and the Salem-Derby Road. Longley slowed down to avoid the spikes, drove through a field and, police reported, began traveling directly at DiSanto who drew his gun and pointed it at Longley. Longley drove the truck off the roadway, into a ditch and onto the passenger side with the tires on the driver side in the air before he regained control and continued south on the Salem-Derby Road. At this point, the truck’s wheels didn’t have any rubber.
Police said Longley had difficulty traveling on the roadway and nearly crashed several times. The chase ended when Longley lost control of the truck and landed in a ditch.
Moulton said Longley had a strong odor of intoxicants and, while being taken into custody, Longley told police he knew he had screwed up and should not have attempted to elude them.
Longley’s BAC level, taken at the Newport City Police Department, was .152%.
Duquette admitted the pursuit was a dangerous situation.
“It was high speeds; it was icy roads,” said Duquette, who added that the question of calling off a pursuit lies in the hands of the senior officer or pursing officer.
“If they think they can handle the situation and he’s not endangering more than is acceptable. You know you have to take into consideration what the person might be doing. Why he was involved in the pursuit or whatever. If you you don’t know why he’s driving like a frigging maniac, you might have murder or something on your hands, you don’t know,” Duquette said.
Duquette hopes the case won’t be plea-bargained.
“This guy not only endangered himself, but officers as well,” said Duquette said. “This guy was driving with total disregard and in my opinion he needs to go to jail.”
Duquette said someone told him that Longley has raced on dirt tracks and Duquette feels the court should make an example of Longley.
Longley, who was in court Tuesday, pled not guilty to a felony charge of operating a vehicle to elude an officer. He also pled not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of operating vehicle in a reckless or grossly negligence manner, a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle with excessive speed and a misdemeanor charge of second offense driving while intoxicated.
The state police assisted in the chase. Border Patrol was in the area but wasn't actively involved in the pursuit.