The lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court seeks more than $75,000 in damages saying officers for the city and port authority were negligent and violated the then 12-year-old girl’s rights when they initiated a high-speed chase over an alleged minor traffic violation. It cites a memo from the then-chief of police in Pittsburgh Cameron McLay written in response to the crash and directing officers not to initiate high-speed chases unless a suspect in a violent felony is involved, saying the chief’s order should have been in effect before the girl was injured.
“Regrettably, too many instances occur where our police pursuits create greater danger to the public than the violations we are seeking to address through enforcement,” McLay wrote.
The lawsuit alleges that the chief’s order was never incorporated as a policy and high-speed chases still occur after minor traffic violations.
Chris Togneri, the spokesman for Pittsburgh’s Public Safety Department, said the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police revised its policy regarding motor vehicle pursuits in June 2017, but said state law mandates that pursuit policies remain confidential from the public.
A spokesman for the transit authority declined to comment, saying the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Seven officers from the two agencies participated in the chase that involved running red lights, running stop signs and according to witnesses at least one police car driving on the sidewalk.
The lawsuit said police followed and sped up behind the car the girl, only identified as “DH” in the lawsuit, was in and that was driven by her half-brother, Donovan Robinson. An unnamed 16-year-old was also in the front seat. The lawyers do not describe the alleged traffic violation that caused police to initiate the stop.
The chase ended when Robinson’s car crashed into another vehicle. The lawsuit doesn’t describe the girl’s injuries but says some are permanent. At the time, police said she was found unresponsive in the backseat of the car and taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Robinson eventually pleaded guilty to more than 50 charges related to the chase including aggravated assault with a vehicle.
The lawsuit includes detailed lists of Pittsburgh police chases between 2012 and 2015.
According to that data, from 2012 to 2015 there were 729 highspeed chases involving Pittsburgh police. Of those, the lawsuit said 393 were initiated for minor traffic violations.