Milton W. Sparks Jr.

Milton W. Sparks Jr.

Whether tourism officials were ready or not, Christian County’s rural scenery was broadcast into the homes of 1.9 million cable television viewers on Friday night.

If you came home from a cool and rainy night at a high school football game, you may have casually flipped on your television and decided to check out “Live PD,” a show on A&E that puts camera crews into the cabs of police cars. On a typical episode of Live PD, camera crews ride along with law enforcement officers in Nevada, Florida, California, South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana and more—including Greene County, Missouri.

The show moved into the Christian County panhandle on Friday, as Greene County Deputy Tim Haynes joined a pursuit in progress. Radio traffic that went over the air mentioned Christian County, and suddenly we couldn’t change the channel or leave the room.

Police chases make compelling television. Cable news producers, the people who conceptualized “Cops,” and now the producers of Live PD know that we like to watch the action unfold. There is something about the completely unpredictable outcome that makes it difficult for us to stop watching.

With that unpredictable outcome comes a very real danger. The person or persons running from the police, the law enforcement officers, the camera crews and citizen bystanders could all be injured or even killed during a police pursuit. We want the made-for-TV drama, but sometimes we forget about the risks involved with police chasing down a suspected criminal.

In this case, the pursuit ended with Milton W. Sparks Jr., 35, and a female passenger being taken into police custody when the chase ended on Zoller Road between Clever and Billings. Live PD showed a line of police vehicles, about 20 of them, lined up side-by-side like the starting grid of a NASCAR race behind the wrecked pickup truck Sparks had been driving.

Police departments across the country have been scrutinized over the policies for vehicle pursuits. Pursuits sometimes end with crashes. Like the one in the Christian County panhandle, they can also end with a deputy performing a maneuver to take out the suspect vehicle.

In neighboring Greene County, two law enforcement agencies have contrasting pursuit policies. The Greene County Sheriff’s Department will pursue an unidentified driver suspected of committing a felony. The Springfield Police Department will pursue an unidentified driver suspected of committing a violent felony. Policies become murkier when it comes to a pursuit with multiple agencies, or multiple counties, involved.

As curious human beings, we are captivated by police chases. As journalists, we watch closely when Christian County law enforcement agents are involved in a pursuit. As citizens of Christian County, we are glad when a situation with law enforcement agents ends with a success story for the deputies and with safety for all parties involved.

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