Dallas Love Field police chase raises local concerns

By Jeff Ferrell – bio|email

Shreveport, LA(KSLA)- According to Dallas Deputy Police Chief Jesse Reyes, the recent chase that took place on Dallas Love Field Airport runway left officers who participated in the pursuit with no other option but to be prepared "to use deadly force."

The situation could have taken a tragic turn, and safety was what police were not willing to compromise at any cost because the stakes are so much higher when it involves passenger jets. One of the flights had to make a second approach before it was safe enough to land. Departing flights were grounded until the pursuit was over.

The events in Dallas raised a big question:  If a police chase can end on an airport runway, what's to stop a hijacker or terrorist from doing the same thing? Others are asking if there should have been a chase to begin with.

The hour-long slow chase through parts of Dallas Thursday afternoon may make for compelling television, but it begs the often-debated question: When should police stop a chase to avoid a potential tragedy involving the public?

"When the risk of continuing the pursuit outweighs the risk of allowing the apprehended to flee typically we're going to have a supervisor terminate that pursuit.  We're going to stop it," said Sgt. Bill Goodin with the Shreveport Police Department.

The chase in Dallas eventually ended at the Love Field Airport where runways had to be shut down until a patrol car rammed the truck to stop it, that's when officers arrested the driver.

But the episode has already prompted Dallas officials to call for a review of airport security.

Whether it be large airports, or places like the mostly quiet confines of Shreveport's Downtown Airport, the question is the same:  Is there enough security on runways? As in most cases, it all boils down to an equation, the costs versus the benefits when it comes to security measures.

Having an armed guard at every perimeter gate of an airport, for example, would be security overkill, not to mention that it would be terribly expensive.

But a well-staffed, trained security force, surveillance equipment, not to mention airport layout can all help create a wall of deterrence.

Shreveport Airport Authority officials are reticent about saying too much about their security measures out of fear of compromising safety.  But even since September 11th, there is much more of a team approach.

"Shortly after September 11th, we had officers out there assisting them in their duties so we work very closely with those folks out there," added Bill Goodin.

Airport spokesman Bill Cooksey had a few remarks on the whole topic. First, comparing the Downtown Airport to Shreveport Regional Airport is like comparing apples and oranges in the sense that there are much tighter regulations at the later because it is a commercial carrier airport. Second, Shreveport Regional Airport not only meets federal standards, but is taking out bids to improve fencing in a big way.