After officer injured, SAPD chief angry over sheriff’s chase policy, filming of “COPS”
Officer has “terrible injuries to his leg because of a traffic pursuit.”
SAN ANTONIO – UPDATE:
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar sent a directive to all agency law enforcement Friday evening tightening BCSO's pursuit policy as it relates to helping other law enforcement, two sources told KSAT.
"Effective immediately, any outside agencies requesting Bexar County Sheriff's Office assistance in initiating or continuing a pursuit that, by their own policy, the outside agency's officers are not allowed to engage in, will be declined. If the request is for assistance with a pursuit already authorized and properly conducted by the other agency's policy, assistance will be provided as needed," the memo reads in full.
Salazar confirmed the policy change in the following statement:
It has been common practice for outside agencies to request BCSO initiation in pursuits that those agencies are themselves not allowed to initiate by their own policy. Until today, this practice has been widely accepted. Upon review of the BCSO policy, I have issued a directive stating that if another agency calls on the BCSO to initiate a pursuit which they themselves are prohibited from engaging in, we will have to decline. We will still assist outside agencies in pursuits that are permitted in their own policies. This is done to ensure gaps between different agency policies are better bridged."
ORIGINAL: San Antonio Police Chief William McManus expressed anger Friday over the Bexar County Sheriff's Office chase policy after an SAPD officer was injured following a chase with deputies that ended in a crash. McManus also said he believed the pursuit continued because a TV crew from "COPS" was riding along with deputies at the time.
Officer Ralph Delgado Jr, 38, was directing traffic and setting up flares on I-35 Thursday evening when a driver in a truck hit his vehicle from behind. Delgado was pinned between his patrol car and the median. He suffered a serious leg injury which required surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center.
"He's not in good shape," McManus said during a press conference Friday.
McManus said Delgado, an 11-year-veteran who works out of the East Patrol substation, will need to undergo several more surgeries before he could give a prognosis on his recovery, but said Delgado was in good spirits.
After giving a short update on Delgado, McManus' focus switched to the policy that led up to the officer's injury.
McManus said the BCSO policy is not as restrictive as the SAPD policy, which states that suspects can only be pursued in cases of violent felonies and misdemeanors when a firearm is involved.
RELATED: SAPD revise police pursuit policy
Thursday night's chase started when two men in a truck refused to pull over during a traffic stop. Sheriff's deputies pursued the truck on several city streets before driving the wrong way on the access lane and then the main lanes of I-35. During the pursuit, the driver rammed a BCSO patrol vehicle. The chase came to an end when the suspects crashed nearly head-on into a car.
"You can personalize this very easily," McManus said. "If it were your wife or husband or daughter or son, or my wife or daughter or son and I knew the vehicle was being chased for a traffic offense?"
McManus said the officer has "terrible, terrible injuries to his leg because of a traffic pursuit."
"Am I angry about it? Yes, I am," he said.
McManus said he spoke with BCSO Sheriff Javier Salazar Thursday night about the sheriff's office chase policy. McManus said while he and Salazar have had good partnership but "this doesn't work for me."
He said the two had previously spoken about the chase policy but "apparently not enough."
“The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office pursuit policy was made more restrictive when I took office in 2017 with feedback from the Sheriff’s and Citizen’s Organized for Public Engagement Committee (S.C.O.P.E.)," Salazar said in a statement Friday afternoon. "As a result, last night’s pursuit ended with the apprehension of two dangerous felons. If there is any blame to assign in these incidents, it is on the two dangerous felons that fled from deputies and on the inattentive driver who struck the SAPD Police Officer an hour after the felony pursuit and crash.”
SAPD changed its policy on pursuits in 2013 as a result of "a lot of study and culture change in this department," McManus said.
When asked by a reporter whether he thought the fact that there was a TV crew riding along with BCSO deputies during the chase played a factor in why it continued, McManus was clear.
"Let me be very direct in my answer," McManus said. "The answer is yes, I do."
“Specific policies and procedures for chases are set by departments in advance, and vary from one jurisdiction to another," a spokesperson for Langley Productions, which produces the show. "The COPS television show does not set or control such policies, and moreover, these policies do not change based on the presence or absence of our production crews.”
"An officer may lose his career over this because he may not be able to come back to the extent he needs to come back. I hope that's not the case," McManus said.
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