California Connected Cuts to The Chase: Car Chases Kill

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80 Percent of the 7700 Car Chases in California Last Year Occurred in Los Angeles

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On May 12, California Connected will broadcast episode two of its fifth season with an in-depth look at the culture and the dangers of car chases. While most of the car chases happen in the Los Angeles area, California Connected looks at the problem around the entire state, including the heartbreaking story of a woman who lost her daughter when her van was rammed by a teenager escaping police.

California Connected is the award-winning news magazine series that delves into the topics of vital importance to California, and frequently, the nation. Anchor Lisa McRee leads a team of news correspondents who explore the state’s hot-button issues in-depth and search for solutions, in addition to asking the tough questions. The series – a joint project of KCET, KVIE, KPBS and KQED – airs statewide.

The second episode explores the public’s fascination with car chases and the deadly dangers of pursuits in California. On average, there are more than twenty car chases a day in California. So what is it about Californians that leads them to run? And why do Californians love to watch them? The car chases have spawned an industry where cameramen hustle to “get the money shot.” Jeff Wald from KTLA says, “…we’re in the business of letting people know what is going on in their city.” But Howard Rosenberg, former Los Angeles Times television critic, counters that “the real news is hijacked in the process.”

And for those unwilling participants, there can be tragic consequences in the event of a deadly pursuit. California Connected follows the story of Kristie Priano, a 15 year-old girl who died in a chase four years ago. Her mother Candy tells the story of how her minivan was hit by a teenager who was being pursued by police: “It was a joy-riding teen who had taken her mother’s car without permission…she was never physically arrested…and my daughter died,” says Candy in an interview with California Connected. Priano contends, in this case, the police should have never been chasing the teenager in the first place.

California Connected also interviews Senator Sam Aanestad, the California State Senator of the 4th district. Senator Aanestad introduced “Kristie’s Law,” a bill to reform the way police conduct chases. His bill would limit the list of chaseable offenses and make officers and departments responsible if they break the rules.

He explains, “We are the only state that gives immunity to the police, from any lawsuit or any wrong doing, in a police pursuit that ends up in injury or death. No other state gives you that immunity.” This law was never passed.

Senator Gloria Romero, the senator of D-Los Angeles Senate District 24, backed Kristie’s Law. After it failed to pass, she wrote her own measure that was more acceptable to law enforcement. SB 719 is a law that boosts compensation for victims, increases penalties for offenders, and requests more training for the officers in the field.

The series also interviews Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, who, recognizing the dangers of pursuits, has instituted policy changes on his own.

California Connected is co-produced by four PBS stations – KCET/Los Angeles, KPBS/San Diego, KQED/San Francisco and KVIE/Sacramento – and is broadcast statewide through a unique collaboration with KCSM/San Mateo, KEET/Eureka, KIXE/Redding, KOCE/Huntington Beach, KCSM/San Mateo, KTEH/San Jose, KVCR/San Bernardino and KVPT/Fresno. Since its creation in 2002, California Connected has won numerous awards, including the 2006 Gracie Award for Outstanding Documentary-Short Length and a 2006 National Headliner Award, placing third for best News Magazine program after ABC’s Prime Time Live and 20/20.

“Deadly Pursuit” and “Cut to the Chase” are produced by Coll Metcalfe of KCET. The executive producer of California Connected is Bret Marcus; senior producer is Justine Schmidt, and line producer is Ellen Raphael. Additional information about California Connected is available at its award-winning website californiaconnected.org.

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start pounding the keyboard. Alan has a fascination with making video and video editing, so watch out if he points his Canon 7d in your direction.