Wichita Falls, Texas Sheriff David Duke said today (Wednesday, March 20) that the United States Supreme Court has issued a decision which supports the chase policy his office follows throughout Wichita County, during a speech in front of the University Kiwanis Club at Luby's.
"The Supreme Court has ruled that if a person fleeing law enforcement officers crashes and kills himself than it is his own fault and not that of the officials pursuing him," Duke said at the weekly meeting of the Wichita Falls Kiwanis group.
"Take a situation where the officer is pursuing a criminal. The criminal turns right and the law enforcement official decides not to chase him and turns left. The person who is evading arrest crashes into a house and kills three people. I'd say the officer who decides not to pursue is liable," said Duke who has served the citizens of Wichita County and Wichita Falls almost 31 years.
"That's why we have a chase policy in my office. Some offices around the country have a no chase policy where they won't pursue," Sheriff Duke explained to the interested audience.
Duke further defended his office's chase policy when he said, "We don't know until we stop them what we're actually dealing with. It could be a drug dealer or a murderer. If we don't pursue them we could turn a murderer loose on the community."
Duke, who will celebrate his wedding anniversary with wife Kellie on the same day as his 31st anniversary with the office this summer, provided some dramatic examples of his deputies successfully pursuing fleeing criminals through the streets of Wichita Falls, Texas.
Melvin Joyner, who is in charge of media relations for the Sheriff's Office, showed a series of dramatic high speed chases which could very well make scenes in a movie like Bullitt. In one especially dramatic videotape, a fleeing man on a stolen motorcycle got confused as he weaved along his escape route and made a sudden turn so that he was heading the wrong way on a road. He caused a head-on collision with the patrol car of a deputy who was involved in the pursuit.
Duke has two children including a son at Midwestern State University and a daughter both of whom he is very proud.
Duke won his first election to sheriff a little over four years ago in a tough race before running unopposed to win his second term more than a year ago.
Even though Duke has ascended to the highest position in the sheriff's office, he still enjoys taking part in the action himself. He told of several incidents when he had become involved in the stopping of fleeing fugitives. He even showed up in one of the films today throwing spike strips to try and stop a speeding motorist.
He even related one incident in which a fugitive had sped through Bellevue, Texas at an illegal speed and been pursued all the way to Wichita Falls by Department of Public Safety troopers and Clay County Sheriff's deputies. Duke's deputies joined in the effort as he neared Wichita Falls on one of the freeways. When he was finally corralled and about to be arrested, he actually called 9-1-1 and tried to turn himself in.
"Because of the location of where he was with his cell phone the call actually went to Archer County Sheriff's Office instead of our office," Duke said, smiling.
He further said, "Of course it doesn't work that way. You don't evade law enforcement for all those miles and dump meth out of your windows along the way and expect to just say you're going to turn yourself in. You're going to be arrested for that behavior. Evading arrest in a motor vehicle is now a felony in the State of Texas."
Duke is a graduate of Wichita Falls Rider High School and also attended Vernon College. He said when he was looking for a job he applied for a position with the Wichita Falls Fire Department. He was qualified to go through the training when they closed the academy in 1982.
What was at first a temporary setback for Duke, turned out to be Wichita County's good fortune as he instead was hired by then Sheriff Tom Callahan and worked his way through the ranks to become an excellent Sheriff for Wichita County and Wichita Falls, Texas.
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