Priano Family Continues Fight for Chase Limits

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday February 27, 2007

One of the most active campaigns in both California and the nation to put stricter limits on high-speed police pursuits is being conducted by the mother of Kristie Priano, the 15-year-old Chico girl who was killed when the Priano family van was struck by a 15-year-old girl who was being chased by police for taking her mother’s car without permission. 

On the website www.kristieslaw.org Candy Priano, Kristie’s mother, it explains that “one minute, Kristie Priano was a 15-year-old honor student laughing with her brother in the back of the family minivan on the way to her high school basketball game. The next, she was one of hundreds who die each year across the nation in high-speed police pursuits. More than a third are innocent victims. A teen fleeing from the police plowed into the Prianos' minivan, killing Kristie. Prior to the chase, officers knew the identity of the teen who took her mother’s RAV4 without permission. Officers violated their own pursuit policy by chasing her through a poorly lit residential neighborhood. This chase wasn't necessary to keep others safe. In fact, the fleeing teen went home with her mother while innocent Kristie died in the hospital.” 

The Priano website has gone far beyond the story of Kristie Priano’s death. The opening page provides a rolling list that names recent innocent police chase accident victims, including police themselves as well people who were not suspects of any crime and were not being pursued by the police, but who were struck by cars driven by pursuing police or the suspects they were pursuing. Included is the statistic that there have been 2,114 “blameless victims” of pursuit killed in the United States from 1982 to 2005, as well as the notation that “the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also received reports that 87 officers have been killed during this time period. These figures, while high, are under-reported for a number of reasons, most obviously because reporting is not mandatory.” 

The centerpiece of Candy Priano’s efforts to modify police chase policy is Kristie’s Law, introduced by State Senator Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) in 2004 and 2005 which would, among other things, require stricter guidelines for police pursuits in residential neighborhoods throughout California and mandate that an independent agency investigate all accidents resulting from police chases. The proposed law would also loosen the restrictions on the compensation of victims of police chases. 

Rashidah Grinage of Oakland’s PUEBLO says that once changes are made in Oakland’s police chase policy, “the next thing we need to work on is the reactivation of Kristie’s law,” which was last defeated in the state Legislature in 2005. “Right now, cities in California have immunity from lawsuits initiated by innocent victims of police chase crashes so long as the city has a police chase policy on the books. That’s outrageous, and it leaves innocent victims with no civil remedy. That has to be changed. We need to work on Senator [Don] Perata and Assemblymember [Sandré] Swanson to get their support for a reintroduction of Kristie’s Law.”