Concern over too-low penalties after pursuit and crash injured 7

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Police Association says reckless drivers that steal cars must face tougher penalties.

It comes after Monday's pursuit and crashes that injured seven people, including one man who was in critical condition.

The Waukesha Police Department is the investigating agency. A captain there said they're still working with the state patrol and state crime lab to process patrol video from the pursuit and crash.

But the Milwaukee police union worries not enough is being done to discourage reckless drivers, and a national organization is cautioning against pursuits.

Milwaukee Police Association President Andrew Wagner said, "They're not afraid of getting caught. They even say themselves, 'If I do get caught, so what?'"

Wagner says car thieves and reckless drivers are encouraged by a lack of accountability. Some of the alleged "Kia Boys" even bragged about it in an independent film posted online last week, saying, "You only going to do like three weeks. It's a misdemeanor."

According to Wagner, "They're saying, 'Well, I'll just make it so dangerous that the cops will have to stop pursuing me.' That way of thinking has to be changed."

Wagner says over time changes in the court system have lessened the consequences reckless drivers face, meaning they're likely to do it again.

In the independent video, moviemaker Tommy G asked, "The average Kia boy out there: 30 cars, 50 cars, two cars?" One of the boys responded, "200 car thefts. 300 car thefts."

Ret. Captain Tom Gleason is an advisory board member at Pursuit SAFETY, a national organization. He said, "When we start chasing somebody that doesn't have the ability to drive a car, and to them it's nothing more than fun, and they're not thinking about consequences of it."

Gleason said officers must weigh several factors when considering a pursuit, including the original offense, the weather and road conditions, and time of day. He said, "In a generic environment or in utopia, yes, pursuits work. But we don't live in a utopia."

Even a chase that's deemed appropriate can end in injuries, like the pursuit Monday evening.

Gleason said, "Our first thing as law enforcement should be public safety. And we don't want to put the risk too high over no tag, stolen vehicle, speeding, over those minor offenses."

MPD's standard operating procedure for vehicle pursuits says "Members must be mindful of the balance between achieving the goals of law enforcement while maintaining the public’s safety."

But Gleason says statistics show pursuits increase the risk to officers and the public.

And Wagner says it's compounded when the offenders are reckless. He said, "They didn't seem to have any care for their own safety and for the safety of others."

The Waukesha Police Department is investigating this pursuit. A captain said the suspect has not been charged yet and his identity has not yet been released. They also did not have an update on the critically-injured man.

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