Every government agency I know of, from the federal level to small podunk towns in the middle of nowhere, are facing severe budget shortfalls, laying off workers, and cutting back on services, trying to make ends meet.
Did you ever wonder what happens to your tax dollars? Well, here’s a good example: Maricopa County, Arizona, is currently experiencing a $4.2 million deficit, and has announced that there will be no new services or pay raises for County employees in the next fiscal year.
However, the County’s Board of Supervisors has just unanimously agreed to pay $235,000 to the family of a man who was killed during a pursuit by Sheriff’s deputies.
Now, the dead man, Dennis Lee Hester, was not an innocent bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and lost his life in one of those terrible quirks of fate we hear about all of the time. No, Hester was fleeing from the police, after failing to pull over for a routine traffic stop, when he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into another vehicle.
His mother, Sandy Fitzgerald, who filed the lawsuit on her behalf, and on that of her grandson, who was born shortly after the 2007 accident in which his father died, claimed sheriff’s deputies acted negligently by pursuing her son. In her original suit, she asked for over $2 million.
Huh? Isn’t that what cops are supposed to do – catch criminals? Isn’t it a crime to refuse to stop for a police car, and isn’t it a crime to flee from police? According to the Arizona State legislature’s website page Failure To Comply With A Police Officer, anyone who does so is guilty of a Class 2 Misdemeanor, with a jail sentence of up to four months, and fines of up to $750. Their page on Unlawful Flight From Law Enforcement says anybody who does so is guilty of a Class A Felony, which can result in up to five years imprisonment.
Based on everything I have read about this case, the only negligence here was that of Dennis Lee Hester himself, and he died for that negligence. So why are the taxpayers of Maricopa County paying his family mega-bucks? I just don’t get it.
He broke the law, he crashed his bike, and he died. How are the cops at fault in any of this? Should police officers just hang up their car keys and let criminals flip them the bird and drive away? Or is there a sliding scale on who should be pursued? Do they let speeders go, but pull over drunk drivers? Can strong arm robbers get a pass, but those who use weapons get chased down? Where do we draw the line?
If I were a Maricopa County resident who could not get the services I need, I’m sure I’d take comfort in the knowledge that the families of criminals are getting highly compensated with my tax dollars when they screw up and die, or get injured, in the process of committing their crimes!
Tags: budget deficit, budget shortfalls, County Board of Supervisors, criminals, drunk drivers, felony, fleeing from police, innocent bystander, Maricopa County Arizona, Misdemeanor, motorcycle accident, routine traffic stop, Sheriff’s deputies, tax dollars, unlawful flight, waste of tax dollars