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Corpus Christi and Portland police policies differ when pursuing suspects

Posted at 8:44 PM, Feb 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-28 11:21:28-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As KRIS 6 News has reported in the “Facing Danger” investigative specials, wrong-way drivers are a problem across the Harbor Bridge and have caused at least six fatalities in the last seven years.

In the process of reporting, 6 Investigates found that Portland police are having to use some tacticsthat other agencies may disagree with.

KRIS 6 News investigative reporter Bryan Hofmann sat down with the Corpus Christi and Portland police chiefs to talk about the differences in their policies.

Stopping wrong-way and intoxicated drivers coming from Corpus Christi has become a normal part of the job for the Portland Police Department, with officers having to stop these wrong-way drivers nearly once a month.

"I've been the chief here for eight years, and as I've said, this has been going on since the day I got here and well before," said Portland Police Chief Mark Cory.

During KRIS 6 New's "Facing Danger” coverage, investigations revealed Portland PD has made it a policy to stop these wrong-way drivers by any means.

And while that usually means spike strips or trying to pull over the vehicle, Cory said, “If that doesn't work, then we are going to ram that vehicle and stop that vehicle in whatever manner we can."

Across the bridge in Corpus Christi, Police Chief Mike Markle doesn't agree with all those tactics.

"There's a high potential that he's going to kill one of his officers or he is going to cause a danger to another citizen in another vehicle, so those things have to be weighed out," Markle said.

"One of the concerns that was raised that we're putting our officers in danger. Well, that's why we wear this badge. We’ll put our own selves in danger to protect those other people," Cory said.

Chief Cory also says that his officers get training for these techniques, are able to call off a chase should one start and it get too dangerous, and that no citizen, officer or suspect has been seriously injured, or even injured that he knows of in the methods they use to stop vehicles.

Corpus Christi Police are also at a disadvantage for drivers traveling the wrong way over the Harbor Bridge, Markle said. While his officers do everything they can, by the time those drivers are on the bridge, they are headed straight to Portland, which is why they notify their partner.

Corpus Christi Police have restrictive pursuit policies, which means that they will only chase suspects in certain circumstances, using spike strips, shutting down exits to protect drivers, and in the case of a wrong-way driver doing everything they can to get their attention. But, CCPD officers do not ram vehicles, Markle said.

"Pursuit policies are common sense policies, risk vs. reward. There's no absolute in no pursuit, but it's very restrictive, and if our officers do choose to pursuit or if a supervisor allows them to pursue, then they need to articulate why and why it was worth that risk to catch that individual," Markle said. "A lot of smaller agencies, I get it, a lot of agencies period will say that a thief is a thief and we are going to do everything we can to catch them, we are going to do whatever we can, well that's a little antiquated thinking in my opinion."

This strategy is one that has been used more and more by law enforcement across the nation, limiting the liability of police departments by limiting the risk of innocent bystanders getting injured in a pursuit.

It is, however, not a policy that is held by the Portland Police Department or the Texas Department of Public Safety troopers.

"We cannot let crime occur and let people flee from police and think they are going to get away with it with no consequences," Cory said..

In the end, the main difference is that CCPD officers need a supervisor to allow them to pursue a suspect, while Portland PD officers immediately chase, and it's up to their own best judgment or the judgment of their supervisor to call off a chase if it gets too dangerous.

"Mark is a good chief and he is going to do what he thinks is right, and I the same," Markle said.

"We are going to continue to do what we do because I as the Chief of Police here think that it saves lives, and that's just the way it is," Cory said.