Cohen suggests police might have been on edge after the shootings of two Dade police officers the day before. Sunrise Lt. Spongross argues that Redo's alleged ramming of two police cars, as well as their initial belief that she was driving a stolen car, spurred police to carry on the chase.
But Jeff Alpert contends pursuit should never have gone on for an hour. A former professor at the University of Miami, Alpert spent most of the past decade conducting a study of police pursuits and helping draw up the policy most Dade police agencies now share. "The bottom line is that you balance the need to immediately apprehend the subject with the risk created by pursuit. This case is like a movie script. It shouldn't happen in 1992. I guarantee you it violated the policy we created in Dade," says Alpert, now a professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
Most police departments, including Metro-Dade, adhere to a two-car chase rule. "Because of the high-adrenaline nature of a chase, the fact that it's a highly charged and highly dangerous activity, you want one car pursuing and another monitoring. That's it," Alpert says. Redo's multiple-car chase is even more ridiculous, he adds, in light of the fact that a Broward Sheriff's Office helicopter tracked her from above for more than 30 minutes before she surrendered.
Alpert says his five-year study, which examined more than 1000 chases in Dade, revealed that suspects evading police often sustain injuries when they are arrested. "When you've got a whole pack of cars caravaning, the potential for a feeding frenzy goes way up," he observes. "The worst offense this woman committed was `contempt of cop,' and when you commit that kind of crime, the punishment can be severe."
This past Thursday, Redo was charged by the Broward State Attorney's Office with three counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, a third-degree felony. Friday she was charged in Dade with two more, similar, felony counts. Redo was taken into custody and later posted bail. Each count carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and a minimum mandatory sentence of one year. School district officials, who may pursue a separate investigation after police complete theirs, have suspended Redo from her teaching job, with pay.
Last week an FBI agent interviewed Redo for more than an hour and began requesting police reports from the various agencies involved. Spokesman Wayne Russell would neither confirm nor deny that the FBI is conducting an investigation into Redo's arrest, but he did note that FBI agents generally investigate allegations of civil rights violations committed by law enforcement officers.
Redo insists she is the victim of an attack that was at least partly racially motivated, and notes that all the officers involved were white. The teacher says she's still having vision problems and fears she may have inner-ear damage, but has not decided whether to pursue a civil lawsuit.
"I guarantee you one thing," says defense attorney Cohen. "If Paula Redo walked into a police station looking the way she did and said, `John Jones did this to me,' they would have arrested John Jones for aggravated battery. Someone's responsible for what happened.