Misgivings Over Police Memorial

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Our police department provided speculative remarks to the concerned citizens of Laguna Beach regarding the death of Officer Coutchie. The speculative assertions made by police did not pass the smell test after the CHP investigation had formally been concluded, case closed and results published in an official document that were considerably unfavorable for Laguna police. Since when is an officer’s death that allegedly was caused by a civilian driver not prosecuted by the state? Never.

Money was immediately collected for a fundraiser to erect a memorial, now a questionable objective. The death of Officer Coutchie was a tragic but arguably a preventable loss of life.  Officer Couthie’s dangerous excessive speed was officially determined by CHP to be a significant cause and contributing factor in his own death. Police failed to patiently await the official results of the extensive investigation by the CHP. Erecting a memorial wall in advance of the CHP formal investigation was impulsive, irresponsible and a considerable error in reasonable judgment. Police generally refuse to provide comment when matters are pending investigation. There appeared to be determined motivation to quickly canonize one of their own to hero status.

Not every officer who wears a badge will become a hero. Plenty of officers have been found guilty of breaking the law and have been placed on administrative leave after the conclusion of investigations and many retired and sworn officers have been arrested for shocking crimes. Clearly, the screening measures to become a police officer must be improved upon and training and evaluations must be ongoing in all law enforcement departments nationwide.

Radio communication, ALR, GPS and onboard computer connection with only three exits/entrances provides an opportunity to employ tactical training protocols, methods and measures to safely apprehend alleged speeding drivers. Excessive high-speed pursuit in small towns endangers citizens, placing us at substantial unnecessary risk. Only a critical life or death circumstance warrants a hot pursuit.

Two wrongs simply don’t make a right.  It is not worth the risk of human lives to engage in a high-speed pursuit to merely apprehend a driver to issue a speeding citation! This speculative remark is determined to be unfounded by CHP being without any credible evidence or substance. A wise, prudent evaluation of circumstances affording considerable assessment of risk should always be applied by officers before taking any action.

The immediate canonization of Officer Coutchie was as impulsively reckless as the excessive speed driven. The memorial wall now serves as a facade to conceal the credible circumstantial reality. I prefer to reserve hero status and memorial plaques for circumstances of unquestionable merit.


Joe Cockran, Laguna Beach

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