City Council committee to consider police pursuit changes
UPDATED 14 HRS AGO | POSTED ON JUN 28, 2021
ATLANTA (CBS46) — Joi and Doug Partridge will never forget the day they lost their two children Cameron and Layla, and Joi’s mother, Dorothy Wright. Wright was driving her grandchildren to church when she was hit by the driver of a stolen car fleeing from police in 2016 in Southwest Atlanta.
“It really hurts because I lost my parent and my two kids,” Joi Partridge told CBS46’s Hayley Mason.
Police said officers attempted to stop a stolen vehicle on the 9900 block of West Good Hope Road shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday, but it instead led them on a chase and eventually crossed over into oncoming traffic. Police said the pursuit was then terminated, but the car continued to drive against traffic and hit another vehicle head-on at 50 to 60 miles an hour
Officer Irvine’s death was completely preventable.
But instead, Milwaukee chose to double down and chase even more stolen vehicles, KNOWINGLY ENDANGERINGmany many citizens each and every time.
So FOUR YEARS after making a truly CRITICAL MISTAKE, Milwaukee continues to endanger, maim and kill citizens while NOT solving anything. Is this incompetence or simply a blatant disregard for the area’s population?
PS: Oh, I almost forgot. Milwaukee is working on yet more billboards. Just brilliant…
From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article above:
“A cadre of city officials announced a new billboard campaign discouraging reckless driving. And they all touched on the troubling problem of people as young as 12 years old stealing cars and using them for joyriding and driving dangerously.”
Oklahoma City family questions police pursuit that killed pregnant mom Star Shells
by Josh Dulaney, The Oklahoman
She kept the burial flag of her grandfather, a U.S. Army veteran, in her car window, and it was that flag, in pieces and scattered on the northeast Oklahoma City street, that signified Star Shells was dead.
Shells’ mother, Connie Basco, got the call Monday morning, shortly after Shells, 28, dropped her two young sons off at John W. Rex Charter School and was on her way home.
There had been a police chase, ending in a violent car wreck at Martin Luther King Avenue and NE 16. It scattered car parts along an entire city block. Basco arrived on the scene, desperate for answers.
Chicago: Police vehicle chases end in crashes two-thirds of the time
By Sharon Hoyer
May 17, 2021
In March, @StreetsblogChi took a look at police vehicle chases and the Chicago Police Department’s policy that asks officers to apply an in-the-moment, mental “balancing test” to weigh the necessity of immediately apprehending a suspect against the inherent danger of motor vehicle pursuit. A trove of recently hacked City Hall emails further illustrated the extreme danger and high cost of police vehicle chases.
On May 12, the Chicago Sun-Times’ David Struett reported that, according to a confidential report made public by the hack, two-thirds police chases in 2019 – 180 of 270 total – ended in crashes, and in eight cases people died.
by José Rodríguez Jr. @jrodriguezjr
The Chicago Sun-Times recently wrote about how bad car crashes have gotten in Chicago, Illinois. Except it’s not regular motorists who are causing all the mayhem; it’s the police. Specifically, it’s police chases that are causing all the accidents.
Chicago recorded 270 chases in 2019, and 180 of these ended in either loss of property, loss of human life or both, per the Chicago Sun-Times. Eight drivers died in these car crashes from 2019. In other words, two out of three police chases in the city that year ended in a car crash and one in 23 of those were fatal.
Debate over police chases in Ohio heats up following deadly crash. Should they be banned?
Butler County Journal News, May 16, 2021 An excellent article researched and written by Parker Perry
High-speed chases are dangerous for officers, suspects and the general public, experts said, and a recent Miami County chase that ended in a crash and killed the fleeing driver and an innocent bystander has renewed the debate over them throughout Ohio.
“We as a community have a moral obligation to assure the cause was worth the effect,” say signs posted near where 19-year-old Jalen Alexander crashed his car March 30 after Troy police officers pursued him for nearly 11 miles. “Was the chase necessary,” the signs ask.
by Jonathan Farris
Dad and Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
February 23, 2021
As Though We Don’t Have Enough To Deal With
For any parent who has lost a child, regardless of that child’s age, there’s a gnawing ache that never completely goes away.
When the death first occurs and for several years afterwards, the wound is incredibly raw. Then, as years progress, many parents (definitely not all) learn to manage the pain and sorrow and move toward a more “normal” life.
This is what I call the “new normal” – because there will never again be the old normal…
The journey along this new normal has many speed bumps. Even after 14 years, for me music is a trigger for tears and moments sorrow. This is a regular occurrence and I’ve learned to simply go with it. The triggered event may last a minute or may last longer, but thankfully the new normal generally follows.
Because Paul was a victim of a crime (fleeing and officer in a police pursuit), our new normal includes issues surrounding the individual who killed Paul.
More than three years after Paul was killed (May 2007) we spoke at the trial. He was sentenced to 15-20 years plus 15 years additional probation for his crimes.
In early 2020, seemingly out of the blue, we received notification he was eligible for parole. Yep, an unexpected trigger event!
With help from many, we provided the parole board with convincing information that he should not be released early and they denied his release. But parole hearings often become an annual affair, as was the case with Paul’s killer.
On Monday I attended a Zoom Parole Board hearing for him. There were several parole board members, a victim’s advocate (the individual who helps guide us through the legal system maze), me, and “him.”
I won’t go into any more details, but after the hearing the parole board voted against early release.
So another trigger event can be tabled until next year, when we’ll likely go through the process again.
For all of you who knew Paul and who supported us through this ongoing journey, THANK YOU. This is a journey that’s virtually impossible without support from friends and family.
By Jonathan Farris, Dad and Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
Many of our readers will envision this particular Monday as the day before one of the United States’ most contentious Presidential elections.
Some of our readers are worried about the COVID19 pandemic and devastation caused to individuals, families, countries and the world. As of my writing this, 234,000 people have died in the US and 1,200,000 have died worldwide. Horrible beyond mere words.
But on November 2, 2020 I will take a moment to forget this election, to forget the pandemic, and to instead focus on good memories.
Paul Farris was taken from us in May of 2007. And 2020 will be his 14th missed birthday. Unimaginable.
I suspect given the current state of things, we would have emailed Paul a silly card, texted a funny greeting and then spoken to him when he finished work.
He would be heartbroken that such a horrendous chapter of history is being written in 2020. However, I suspect that in addition to being despondent, he’d be engaged doing whatever he could to make a better future for our world.
Or perhaps he’d just be sitting around drinking beer. We’ll never know…
Just like every birthday, and indeed every day, we miss you immensely.
Hamilton County Police Association (Cincinnati Metro Area) Police Pursuit Symposium / WCPO interview
Jon Farris, Chief Advocate for Pursuit for Change, was a featured presenter at the August 19, 2020 Cincinnati Metro Area Police Pursuit Symposium.
Jon spoke about being a grieving father, a police pursuit victim, an advocate for reducing pursuits, a cheerleader for Pursuit Reduction Technology and a strong supporter of law enforcement. This was an excellent, three-hour symposium with tremendous involvement by over 60 command-level officers from throughout the county. Thanks to Lt. Steve Saunders from the CPD for allowing me to participate.
Additionally, Jon was interviewed by Craig Cheatham, Executive Producer/Chief Investigative Reporter of the WCPO 9 I-Team in Cincinnati. Thanks to Craig for this terrific update.
Sadly, in our current all-too-divisive country and world, many people will read this article and say, “So what, it was just some illegal aliens.”
So to them we say, those were REAL PEOPLE. They had/have families and friends who love them.
How would you feel if a drunk was driving your family or friends and made the stupid decision to flee? This happens regularly. Would it be OK if police chased and as a result YOUR FAMILY was killed or grievously injured? No, it would not be OK.
YOU WOULD BE OUTRAGED.
The Border Patrol chases regularly, and with impunity. This is wrong. Many, if not most of those pursuits, could be eliminated with a stricter and smarter pursuit policy, significantly more driver training for Border Patrol Officers and much greater usage of Pursuit Reduction Technology.
Border Patrol Agent Speaks Out About A High-Speed Chase That Ended In An Immigrant’s Death
by Debbie Nathan
February 28 2020, 7:00 a.m.
A FEW MINUTES BEFORE midnight on January 29, an Ecuadorian man was killed in a car crash near downtown El Paso, Texas, only yards from the U.S.-Mexico border. An Ecuadorian woman was gravely hurt and weeks later is just emerging from a coma. She’s missing part of her skull and half of her body appears to be paralyzed. Stuck in a hospital thousands of miles from her kin, she has had few visitors, but one has been a Border Patrol agent who feels grief-stricken by the accident and believes the Border Patrol played a major role in causing it. The agent recently had an emotional meeting with a family member of the severely injured woman and offered to testify if the family brings a lawsuit.
Police reports say the crash was caused by a drunk driver who picked up the Ecuadorians after they crossed into the U.S. illegally. The driver is said to have been a smuggler who was speeding to evade the Border Patrol, and crashed because he was driving too fast. But the agent says that the chase was improper. It occurred near downtown El Paso on West Paisano Drive, on a section of road so prone to crashes that local law enforcement officers call it a “deadly curve.”
I give special thanks for each you who support our mission to save the lives of innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers.
Don’t eat too much turkey today – that way you can eat even MORE PIE!
PS: One more thing to give thanks for today – being the opening sentence in a national paper editorial. Thank you Louisville Courier Journal (@courierjournal) and also to reporters Mandy McLaren (@mandy_mclaren) and Matt Glowicki (@MattGlo) for their excellent work.
Editorial: Louisville must restrict police chases before more people are hurt, killed
The Courier Journal Editorial Board Published 2:43 p.m. ET Nov. 22, 2019
Jon Farris asked the right question.
How would you feel if you got a phone call saying your son or daughter (or husband or wife or mother or father) was killed because of a high-speed police chase — a chase that was unnecessary because no lives were in danger?
Devastated? Confused? Furious?
Farris’ son died during such a chase. And in the last three years, seven people in Louisville were killed in police pursuits. READ THE REST OF THE STORY
By Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
Paul was killed on May 27, 2007. That was the worst day of my life.
November 2, 2019 will be the thirteenth birthday not spent with him. No birthday wishes. No birthday beer. No birthday cake. No birthday celebration. No birthday phone call. Paul would have been 36. (see PaulFarris.org)
Since Paul’s death I have actively engaged to help prevent other innocent people and law enforcement officers suffering injury and death as a result of unnecessary pursuits.
I do this for you, but perhaps of equal importance, I do it for myself. This is a way to manage the unfathomable grief of losing my child. This is my PTSD therapy. This is my emotional release. It is the well from which I draw the strength to get up every morning.
There’s an excellent TEDx talk by Penny Kreitzer, a mom who lost her 21 year-old daughter. Her talk is entitled, “How to speak about the loss of a child.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV54J3JSdBg. Perhaps she can better explain a grieving parent’s journey better than I.
In the Pursuit For Change and PursuitResponse world, a Presidential Executive Order was signed in October 2019. The EO established a Commission on Law Enforcement and an Administration of Justice, which will study issues critical to ensuring that communities are safe and that those who enforce and administer the law are properly supported. Some areas of focus for the Commission, as summarized by IACP, include:
Challenges to law enforcement from mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse, and other social factors that influence crime;
The recruitment, hiring, training, and retention of law enforcement officers;
The physical safety, health, and wellness of law enforcement officers;
Steps that can be taken to better integrate education, employment, social services, and public health into efforts to reduce crime;
The effectiveness of law enforcement training methods;
The Commission will deliver a report and recommendations to the Attorney General within one year.
Although not specifically defined at this point, we have support from Department of Justice to actively participate and work toward the inclusion of specific training and technologies including everything related to the management of and reduction of vehicular pursuits which always endanger officers and citizens. This is great news and I’ll have more to report as we head into 2020.
Law enforcement has always and will continue to get “beat up” by the press and others, including me. And some boneheaded actions deserve calling out. So when it comes to unnecessary police chases, I’ll continue to press hard.
But with that said, the vast majority of actions taken by law enforcement professionals are warranted and necessary to protect us all, including some violent-felony vehicular pursuits. For their heroic actions, I truly support and thank LEOs for their public service. And I’m incredibly hopeful that, if we’re able to provide LEOs with better tools and more / better training, we will see reductions in the number of pursuits across the US. This, in turn, will save citizen and law enforcement officer lives.
Perhaps, after so many years, you’ve grown tired of reading and listening about my grief management and my pursuit reduction-related activities.
I won’t apologize. Nor shall I stop writing and speaking. I cannot, because it’s not yet time.
Happy Birthday Paul. I love you immensely and miss you even more.
From a book I recently read. The narrator describing a man after the violent death of his child:
Such a man is like a dreamer who wakes from a dream of grief to greater sorrow yet. All that he loves has now become a torment to him. A pin has been pulled from the access of the universe.Whatever one takes ones eye from threatens to flee away.
Such a man is lost to us. He moves, he speaks, but such a man is less than a shadow among all that he beholds. There is no picture of him possible. The smallest mark upon the page exaggerates his presence.
Who would seek the company such a man. That which speaks to us one to another and is beyond our words and beyond our lifting or the turning of a hand to say that this is the way that my heart is, or this. That thing was lost in him.
Jon Farris speaks with Anchor/Reporter Katie Crowther (https://buff.ly/2PAzOim) to discuss #PursuitAlert technology and #Milwaukee #PoliceChases. This is a short story that Katie and Jon hope to follow-up on in a future story. #PursuitResponse
Creators of new app hope police departments will get on board
A father’s plea for change, after losing his son, is now strengthened by new technology on the market.
A safety app was just created with the hope of saving more innocent people from becoming victims in high-speed police chases.
Paul Farris, 23, of Wisconsin died when the taxi he was in was hit during a high-speed chase in Massachusetts. A state trooper was pursuing a driver for a traffic violation. Farris was an innocent victim caught in the wrong place at the wrong time…
I was recently interviewed by Harrison Keegan. I’m always happy to speak with the media. And in this case, I was pleased that the deputy followed procedures and did what was necessary to protect citizens as best he was able.
However, I am heartbroken about the deaths of the Jamin Seabert, 41, Kimberly Seabert, 39, and Braeden Seabert, 19, caused by a drug and alcohol-abuse driver.
Three innocent people were killed, and the sheriff’s office has launched two separate investigations — one looking into the criminal culpability of the fleeing driver and another examining whether the deputies involved in the chase followed department procedure.
Sheriff Jim Arnott said he will wait for the Professional Standards Division to complete its investigation before saying anything definitive, but his first impression is that the pursuing deputy acted appropriately.
Two national police pursuit experts interviewed by the News-Leader said they agree with the sheriff.
The News-Leader asked the experts to review video clips of the pursuit from the TV show “Live PD” and the deputy’s dashboard camera, along with additional context provided by court documents and an interview with Sheriff Arnott.
While both experts said they had some concerns about the overall handling of the incident, they said they would not fault the pursuing deputy for his actions.
“The deputy wasn’t perfect, but he did probably everything that could have been expected of him,” said Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has co-authored a book on police pursuits.
Kenney said the deputy briefly went into a lane of oncoming traffic as the suspect was fleeing the crash scene on foot, and that is a move Kenney would advise against. But overall, Kenney said the deputy’s response to the situation was reasonable.
While they didn’t fault the pursuing deputy, Kenney and another expert — Pursuit for Change founder Jonathan Farris — said they had concerns about the department’s use of spike strips during the pursuit.
The sheriff’s office says it deployed spike strips and took out two of the fleeing suspect’s tires about a mile-and-a-half before the fatal crash.
Kenney and Farris said they will be interested to see whether the investigation determines taking out the tires made the fleeing truck more difficult to control and might have contributed to the crash.
adminDeputy’s Actions Prior To Deadly Missouri Crash
Phil Warshauer’s daughter Stephanie was killed in 2018 when police chased a stolen vehicle. Stephanie was one of FIVE (5) who died in that unnecessary collision. That story of her death is linked here:
Since that time, Phil and his family have advocated tirelessly to help reduce unnecessary chases. One of their success stories is below in a story By Nancy McLaughlin firstname.lastname@example.org in the Greensboro (SC) News & Record. That story is below.
I’ve had the honor to speak with Phil and I understand all that he’s going through and all that he is feeling. Stephanie’s death breaks my heart, because like my Paul, it was totally unnecessary. Only through advocacy efforts will we ever gain positive changes that save innocent lives.
New Guilford Sheriff’s Office policy places more restrictions on chases
July 16, 2019 GREENSBORO — The new way police chases will be handled by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office is drawing praise from the families of two women who were involved in a Battleground Avenue pursuit almost two years ago that ended their lives and three others.
Under the new policy from Sheriff Danny Rogers, deputies won’t be permitted to engage in pursuits involving crimes that are simple, nonviolent misdemeanors such as shoplifting.It was a report of a stolen vehicle which initiated the Battleground Avenue chase just before midnight on a Saturday in September 2017.
However, for serious crimes or if a person is considered violent — a carjacker, for instance — that would be justification for a deputy to initiate a pursuit.
“Sheriff Rogers was open to our suggestions,” said attorney Drew Brown, who represents the families of Stephanie Louise Warshauer and Alyssa Mackenzie Bolick. “The concept is you can get the criminal later. You don’t need to involve Battleground, Saturday night and 130 miles per hour.”
The policy took effect in May. The families of Warshauer and Bolick began pushing for the changes after the Sept. 30, 2017 accident that left five people dead, saying they wanted to see something good come from the tragedy.
Phil Warshauer, whose daughter Stephanie was driving the Optima that was hit, was interviewed as part of a new training video which deputies will see annually. He has said that he also wanted to see law enforcement officers be able to go home at night to their families.
“What keeps me going is Stephanie’s strength,” Warshauer said at the time of the crash. “She would be very upset that she lost a friend, and she would say, ‘Dad, how can that happen?’
“She would say, ‘Dad, don’t let that happen again.’”
Investigators say an Acura driven by Deshon Lee Manuel was trying to evade Deputy C. Lineback’s Dodge Charger as he sped through a light at the intersection of Battleground Avenue and New Garden Road at 130 mph when it struck the Optima carrying Warshauer and Bolick with enough force to push the car another 200 feet.
Manuel along with his two passengers — Theresa Monique Kingcade and Bruce Wayne Hunt — died at the scene.
A wrongful death suit by the estate of Kingcade was dismissed this spring without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled within a year.
The lawsuit blamed the officer for setting off a chain of events that ended in the deaths.
Most kinds of lawsuits against the state and individuals acting in a government capacity — such as law enforcement — are covered by sovereign immunity.
“It’s an awful set of circumstances,” said attorney Richard C. Metcalf, who represented Kingcade’s family.
Barnes defended his deputy at the time, saying the people inside the Acura drew the deputy’s attention because he could see them ducking at times and looking in his direction. And when the vehicle between them moved over as traffic began to flow, the Acura also moved over, keeping a car between them.
The deputy said at the time he steered his patrol car behind the Acura and ran the license plate number through a police database.
The vehicle then turned into a nearby apartment complex.
“He’s thinking there’s something not right here,” Barnes said of the deputy at the time.
As the Acura exited the apartment complex onto Battleground Avenue, it headed in the opposite direction. It was then that Lineback was alerted the car had been reported stolen.
The Acura accelerated. A chase ensued.
Lineback activated his siren and lights, which also turned on his dashboard camera.
As was policy at the time, the deputy radioed in to a supervisor. The supervisor didn’t have time to respond, Barnes said, because the chase had barely started when it ended 62 seconds later in the deadly crash.
On Friday, May 17th, Urban Milwaukee published an article highlighting a stolen vehicle police pursuit on North 45th and West Center Street. The fleeing vehicle ultimately rear-ended a taxi cab and crashed. Several bystanders were injured, but luckily they survived the ordeal.
The article mentioned that, “the City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force is set to meet for the first time on Friday, May 17th at City Hall. Among the topics likely to be discussed during that meeting and the Fire and Police Commission meeting were whether there are new police pursuit technologies that could help improve safety.”
Really? This is ironic because in 2018 MPD ended a pursuit reduction technology program. MPD and MFPC appear to be ignoring their previously successful use of GPS tracking technology. MPD ceased in this program 2018 and canceled already-approved additional GPS units.
It is simply a fact that continuing and expanding this program would have saved innocent lives and reduced bystander and officer injuries. These GPS unit purchases are public record and Urban Milwaukee covered this as well. Has anyone from MPD or the MFPC explained why? And now they are “looking for technologies that could help improve safety?”
Under (former Milwaukee PD Chief) Flynn the agency adopted new technology developed by a private company called StarChase, whereby police shoot at GPS “bullet” about the size of a soup can that can stick to a fleeing car.
A 2014 MPD report found it is effective in 55 percent of cases, meaning it sticks to a car and an arrest is later made. That compares to MPD’s horrible apprehension rate of 38 percent for 2018’s 940 chases.
“During the year 2016 MPD deployed this technology 156 times, successfully attaching it to fleeing vehicles 112 times,” a past FPC report noted.
The approach enables police to avoid high-speed chases that often are aggressive adrenaline-fueled contests between officers and a suspect that lose track of innocent bystanders in a dense urban setting.
Whereas the StarChase devices “give officers time to [let the adrenaline high pass], so by the time the pursuit is over, they can think more clearly and make better tactical decisions,” as MPD Inspector Terrence Gordon told Governing magazine in 2016. Yet since Chief Flynn retired, there has been no discussion of this technology.
So I ask, why are MFPC and MPD leadership ignoring their own past success with this technology? And of greater importance, why are these same officials allowing multiple dangerous pursuits every single day?
Of course technology alone is not a panacea. An intelligent and measured pursuit policy must balance enforcement with the risk to innocent citizens and officers. But that is certainly not occurring under current MPD policies, because tragically in 2018 one young officer was killed, twenty officers were injured, and numerous bystanders were killed and injured. And the carnage is continuing unabated into 2019.
Milwaukee has already exceeded its $5 million reserve for police settlements and now must borrow to settle lawsuits. This is after not properly considering or, more likely, ignoring available risk mitigation strategies (unless, of course, one counts the billboard campaign, which was a colossal waste of money).
No one pursuit-related solution will solve Milwaukee’s crime problems. Managing pursuits in the 21st century requires a mix of appropriate policies, extensive officer training and effective use of all available tools.
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission must explain to taxpayers why they and MPD ceased supporting a pursuit reduction program that was working. And as MFPC and MPD reflect upon their mind-boggling 940 pursuits, reconsider the fact that only effective technology combined with smarter pursuit driving policies will help tip MPD’s abysmal pursuit statistics back in the direction of saving lives and reducing injuries and property damage.
It’s clear that Milwaukee’s current pursuit policies and actions are costing too many lives and emptying city coffers.
Jonathan Farris is Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change. Jon’s son Paul was an innocent bystander killed in a horrific police pursuit crash outside of Boston in May 2007.
adminOP ED City Should Change Police Pursuit Policy . Urban Milwaukee
by Jonathan Farris
Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
May 27, 2019
Once again I awoke suddenly, shivering in a cold sweat. I had that vision – of theTaxi. Damn.
The Taxi photo courtesy Fox 25 News, Boston . May 27, 2007
My brain was spinning out of control. So. Many. Questions. The first batch were those same questions I’ve asked over and over and over again, virtually every day since Paul was killed.
Why didn’t Morales (the creep who killed my son) just stop?
Why did the State Trooper pursue for a simple misdemeanor traffic violation?
Did the Trooper or Morales even consider the crowded neighborhoods and dangers?
Why did this Trooper continue a 76 MPH pursuitinto Somerville and its narrow streets, a city with a violent felony only pursuit policy?
Even the Somerville Police told me THEYWOULD NOT HAVE CHASED.
Why? Why? So many “whys”
For some odd wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night reason, all I could think about was how Paul was killed. And a bizarre analogy, visiting me yet again, would not go away.
Paul was killed by a 4,600 pound bullet.A bullet propelled not by a gun, but by a vehicular police chase.
Think about it. Paul’s death-by-police-pursuit is no different than if he had been shot by a police officer-fired stray bullet.
I wonder how much outrage a shooting would have sparked? And how many policing policies might have changed to ensure such an event didn’t happen to another bystander?
Think about the annual training that officers receive with their firearms. This even though many (most) will never draw the gun from their holster other than for range practice. Yet all officers hop behind the wheel of their squad car every day. And for most of them, tactical driver training has been nothing less than abysmal, with perhaps a few hours of pursuit driving on a closed track every couple of years.
I’ll expound on the squad car-gun analogy another day, but today is for Paul.
When Paul was killed, as in nearly every pursuit situation, the criminal and the officer each had an opportunity to deescalate the situation before the collision. But neither was willing to give up.
Run; run; chase; chase.
And so whether death was from a police-pursued fleeing car or from a stray bullet, Paul and Walid paid the ultimate price.
May 27, 2019 marks the twelfth anniversary of Paul’s death. It marks the anniversary of a crumpled taxi photograph seared painfully into my conscious and subconscious mind.
It marks a new lifetime of working to correct an ongoing injustice. By preserving Paul’s memory and attempting to safeguard others through increased awareness of dangerous and unnecessary police pursuits, perhaps his story will survive.
On Friday, May 17th, Urban Milwaukee published an article highlighting a stolen vehicle police pursuit on North 45th and West Center Street. The fleeing vehicle ultimately rear-ended a taxi cab and crashed. In 2018, after the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (MFPC) 2017 mandate that the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) weaken its nationally recognized pursuit policy, pursuits and these stories have become an everyday occurrence.
The article mentioned that the “City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force is set to meet for the first time on Friday, May 17th at City Hall. Among the topics likely to be discussed during that meeting and the Fire and Police Commission meeting were whether there are new police pursuit technologies that could help improve safety.”
Really? This is ironic as both MPD and MFPC are ignoring their previously successful use of GPS tracking technology, a program which MPD ended in 2018. This, along with a now-cancelled contract to purchase more systems, would have saved innocent lives and reduced bystander and officer injuries. These GPS unit purchases are public record, and in fact, Urban Milwaukee covered this issue as well.
In a recent article Are Police Pursuits Out of Control?, written by Bruce Murphy and published on Thursday, April 25th, it stated:
Under (former Milwaukee PD Chief) Flynn the agency adopted new technology developed by a private company called StarChase, whereby police shoot at GPS “bullet” about the size of a soup can that can stick to a fleeing car. A 2014 MPD report found it is effective in 55 percent of cases, meaning it sticks to a car and an arrest is later made. That compares to MPD’s horrible apprehension rate of 38 percent for 2018’s 940 chases.
“During the year 2016 MPD deployed this technology 156 times, successfully attaching it to fleeing vehicles 112 times,” a past FPC report noted.
The approach enables police to avoid high-speed chases that often are aggressive adrenaline-fueled contests between officers and a suspect that lose track of innocent bystanders in a dense urban setting.
Whereas the StarChase devices “give officers time to [let the adrenaline high pass], so by the time the pursuit is over, they can think more clearly and make better tactical decisions,” as MPD Inspector Terrence Gordontold Governing magazine in 2016. Yet since Chief Flynn retired, there has been no discussion of this technology.
So I ask you, why are the MFPC and MPD leadership ignoring their own past success with this technology?
Technology alone is not a panacea. An intelligent and measured pursuit policymust balance enforcement with the risk to innocent public and officers. That is not happening under current policy, as tragically both officers and numerous civilians have been and will continue to be killed and injured.
No one pursuit-related solution will solve Milwaukee’s crime problems. Managing pursuits in the 21st century requires a mix of appropriate policies, extensive officer training and effective use of available tools.
I respectfully ask that MFPC explain to taxpayers why they ceased supporting a pursuit reduction program that was working. And as MFPC and MPD consider their mind boggling 940 pursuits, reconsider the fact that effective technology, combined with smarter pursuit driving policies, will help tip MPD’s currently abysmal pursuit statistics back in the direction of saving lives and reducing injuries and property damage.
It’s clear that the current pursuit policy is costing too many lives and emptying city coffers.
Neighbors in Bluff Heights were aghast Tuesday morning when a driver who’d been fleeing from police crashed, killing a woman and five dogs in the car he hit.
The woman, 41-year-old Jessica Bingaman, died at the hospital after rescuers freed her from the mangled wreckage and rushed her to get medical attention, according to police. There were six dogs in the car, four of which died at the scene. Two were taken to a local animal hospital where one of them died, police said
Neighbors said the crash happened when a white van plowed into a dark car on Third Street near Temple Avenue around 11:30 a.m. The van broadsided the car at high speed.
A tire flew off the car and hit a nearby wall. Photo by Valerie Osier.
“I saw the white van coming this way really fast. He was going at least 60 to 70 miles per hour,” Fabio Giannone said. “By the time I opened the door, he smashed into the car.”
The crash was so violent that a tire and axle from the car flew across the street and broke a concrete wall. Three parked vehicles—a minivan, a truck and a sedan—were also damaged in the crash.
Police identified the van’s driver as 43-year-old Los Angeles resident Javier Oliverez, who is a parolee and known gang member and was wanted on a warrant for robbery, Long Beach police spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria said.
After being taken to the hospital for minor injuries, Oliverez was booked on suspicion of evading a police officer, felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter. He is being held at the Long Beach Jail with no bail.
At least two people were hospitalized and several dogs were killed. Photo by Valerie Osier.
After first-responders tended to the injured drivers, locals watched as firefighters covered one of the dead dogs with a blanket. Another was briefly hanging out of the car’s mangled door.
Jordan Wood said crews used the Jaws of Life to cut Bingaman out of her car. Wood had calmed down one of the dogs who was still alive, drawing thanks from fire crews.
Mourners placed flowers, dog toys and candles at the site of the crash. Bingaman was a local dog walker. She had the dogs in her car as part of a daycare service she ran, police said.
A memorial is crowded with dog toys, treats, flowers and candles. Photo by Jeremiah Dobruck.
Police said the chase started near Broadway and Alamitos Avenue where officers spotted the van, which had been reported stolen Monday.
The driver wouldn’t stop and officers followed, Long Beach police spokeswoman Shaunna Dandoy said.
Police will look into whether officers acted properly by chasing the van, Chavarria said. This review is typical for pursuits, she said.
A driver in a white van crashed into a car near Temple Avenue and Third Street as he was fleeing from police. Courtesy photo.
When they chase someone, the LBPD mandates its officers and supervisors continually evaluate whether it’s worth the risk. Among other things, they have to consider traffic conditions, whether they’re in a residential neighborhood, the recklessness of the suspect and what he or she is wanted for.
“A police pursuit is a dangerous activity that should be engaged in with the utmost awareness of the risks to other drivers, bystanders, the officers, and the suspect(s),” the LBPD manual says. “The primary purpose of a motor vehicle pursuit is to arrest fleeing suspects with the minimum amount of force necessary and to minimize the risk of harm to people and property.”
Sometimes these are only strong words, but not in the case of Elber Twomey.
On May 5, 2019 I was contacted by Becky Newman, Chief Inspector, Police Adviser for the Home Office Security Science & Innovation and Defence Science Technology Laboratory in West Sussex, United Kingdom. It seems Ms. Newman is actively involved with the UK’s police pursuit policies and pursuit reduction activities. It was quite an honor to have a law enforcement professional reach out across the Atlantic.
Ms Newman also connected me with Elber Twomey, a mom and a loving wife.
Elber was living a peaceful existence with her husband Con, her 16-month-old son Baba Oisín, and was happily pregnant with a daughter. But like so many of my posts, this story took an incredibly tragic path in 2012.
In July 2012, the Twomey’s became innocent victims of a man determined to commit suicide in his vehicle. That despondent, speeding person was being followed (chased?) by a police officer.
Baba Oisín and his unborn sister both died within a day of the crash. And if that wasn’t enough, Elber’s husband Con passed away less than a year later, in May 2013.
Elber lost her whole family. Her children. Her soulmate. Yet she has persevered.
I encourage you to read and share Elber’s story. Because her incredible strength and caring shows that indeed, where there is life, there is hope.
THE couple fighting for their lives after an horrific crash that killed their 16-month-old son had already picked a name for their unborn baby girl, who also died.
The little girl — who was to be named ‘Elber Marie’ after her scheduled birth next December — has been hailed by heartbroken relatives as “an angel”.
Con (39) and Elber (36) Twomey remain in a critical condition in a Devon hospital, following the head-on collision outside Torquay, in Britain, last Friday.
A 20-year old Polish man — who apparently drove directly at high speed into the path of the Twomeys’ Volkswagen Golf — also died.
Devon police have not released the man’s name — although he is now the focus of a probe by its major crime unit.
Toxicology tests on the young Pole and his state of mind at the time are now central to the investigation.
Police are also examining an apparent suicide note left by the young man.
In an emotional statement yesterday, the Twomey family said that only faith and the support of so many people was helping them to cope.
The Twomey’s little boy, Oisin (aged 16 months), died in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth just an hour after the collision, despite desperate efforts by doctors to save him. His unborn baby sister died after an emergency operation to deliver her.
Elber Twomey was five months pregnant and she and Con had already picked the name ‘Elber Marie’ for their unborn baby girl. “She was born an angel,” the Twomey family said.
“Con and Elber, a devoted husband and wife, father and mother to Oisin — the light of their lives — are in the thoughts and prayers of everyone who knew them.
“The shock of the events last Friday afternoon are still so raw and heartfelt. Con and Elber always came together. The pride they had in the life shared with Oisin was obvious to all.
“The expectation they had of the child that Elber carried adding to this happiness was also so real. As they lie ill, this loss is so hard to take.”
Elber’s parents, Timmy and Rita, as well as Con’s sisters, Michelle and Colette, have maintained a vigil by their hospital bedsides.
Today, Newmarket parish priest, Fr Dave Herlihy, who married the couple, will travel to Derriford to show his support for the Twomey family.
Last night, the Twomeys paid a heartfelt thanks to the community. They said: “Embedded in their home community, Meelin and Rockchapel Parish in north-west Cork, Con and Elber were involved in all aspects of its life, from the GAA to local events. Both were always together attending, supporting their friends, neighbours and relatives.
“Their faith (was) always evident, with a proactive involvement in the church. At this time, we, their family and friends, pray that this faith is rewarded with a real recovery.
“We pray, too, for Oisin and baby Elber Marie, born an angel. We ask for the privacy of the families at this time to be respected, so we can focus on helping them in the long recovery ahead.”
The tragedy occurred at 2.45pm last Friday at Hamelin Way outside Torquay, when a Vauxhall Vectra veered directly into the path of the Volkswagen Golf that was carrying the Twomeys.
A police officer witnessed the collision — though police were not chasing the young Pole’s car at the time.
Such was the force of the collision that the main road was closed for over 10 hours and 25 emergency units — including three air ambulances — attended the scene.
Now spend some time on Elber’s site and see how, even with all this pain and sorrow, is working to create POSITIVE CHANGES. Amazing.
Campaigning that All Gardaí/Police Officers will receive specific training in Suicide Awareness & how to Apprehend Suicidal Drivers. It’s to Help the Garda/Police Officer & the Suicidal Soul #LifeIsPrecious
My name is Elber Twomey. Myself and my two Beautiful Boys went on holiday in July 2012. We were an extremely happy family treating ourselves to a ten day holiday in Devon. We chose the Devon, the sunny south west for our holiday as personally I was afraid to fly as I was five months pregnant with our beautiful little lady. Taking our car also gave us the luxury of bringing lots of Baba Oisín’s toys etc., so we literally could have a home away from home. We had 6 fabulously carefree days together. Regretfully on July 6th, day seven of our holiday at 2:47 PM tragedy struck us and our wonderful life ended. We were involved in a horrific crash. This poor driver RIP was suicidal and was being followed at speed by a Police Officer. Our tragic crash claimed the lives of our beautiful little man Baba Oisín and his beautiful unborn sister.
I am Campaigning that All Gardaí/Police Officers will receive specific training in Suicide Awareness & how to Apprehend Suicidal Drivers. It’s to Help the Garda/Police Officer & the Suicidal Soul.
My reason for doing this is to try to help to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening to another innocent family. I want to try to achieve a simple thing, to try to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen here!!
The following is a link to TV3 Disclosure ‘The Elber Twomey Story’.
This documentary tells our horrific story with regard to the tragic events that led to our crash on July 6th 2012 and indeed how it led me to campaign for suicide awareness training for all our Gardaí, Police Officers in the UK and beyond, and that my hope is that they will address the suicidal driver in this training. My thinking being that this training is to help and support the Garda/Police Officer who is faced with such a stressful situation along with hopefully helping the suicidal person that they may encounter.
It includes great interviews with my brother Tomás, close friends of Con’s, Thomas and Michael, wonderful nurses from Torbay Hospital who looked after us in the aftermath of our crash, along with Chief Superintendent Jim Nye of Devon & Cornwall Police and Superintendent Patrick McCabe from the Garda Training College in Templemore in Ireland.
It also features great moments from our http://www.twomeyfamilyremorial.comweekend which we run in June. The aim of the weekend is to Remember with Love and to Honour Con, Baba Oisín & Baby Elber-Marie & to promote the reality of how precious life is. The funds we raise from our weekend have gone to help the Hospitals who looked after us following the crash, Brú Columbanus in Cork who provide home from home accommodation for relatives of seriously ill patients in the Cork hospitals along with great suicide support groups – Reach Out, 3T’s, Samaritans in Cork & Pieta House.
This story plays out EVERY SINGLE DAY across the US. Police chasing stolen vehicles and ALWAYS endangering innocent bystanders. In this case, Maria and Rosemary had to die so policy could chase. When will this stupidity end?
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita police tell KSN that a 12-year-old girl and 70-year-old woman died after a multi-car crash in downtown Wichita. It happened just before 2 p.m. Sunday at Douglas and Broadway.
According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, a 2001 BMW with two people inside was fleeing from Wichita police on Broadway heading southbound.
At the intersection, the BMW struck a 1998 Toyota with three people inside on the drivers side. The Toyota spun out and struck another Chevy with one person.
The woman and girl who died in the crash are identified as 70-year-old Maria Wood and 12-year-old Rosemary McElroy. Both are from Wichita and were in the Toyota. Another woman, 36-year-old Jennifer Wood, was injured and transported to the hospital.
The two people in the BMW, 24-year-old Mia Collins and 38-year-old Christopher English, were transported to the hospital.
A driver of the Chevy, 65-year-old Alfred Angel, was also taken to the hospital.
Captain Jeff Weible says the two suspects accused of causing the crash are in the hospital.
The crash spawned from a car chase, when officers saw an alleged stolen vehicle at the 1000 block of North Broadway.
“As they were trying to turn around to follow the vehicle, the vehicle took off at a high rate of speed,” said Capt. Weible, Wichita Police Department.
Some people who work nearby said they keep replaying the scene in their mind. Legend Journey works inside a building right next to where the crash happened. She was emotional as she recalled what she saw.
“I just walked up to the window, and I saw her feet,” said Journey. “So, I ran away from the window. Just to know that it was right outside where I work and they wanted us to keep working.”
Police are still investigating. KSN hopes to learn more later todya.
“When we have an incident of this magnitude, we’re going to review it thoroughly to make sure we not only follow policy but state law,” said Capt. Weible.
While witnesses said they’re thinking of the families involved, they said they’re also trying to process what they saw.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Journey. “It kind of makes me angry because is stealing a car really worth two people’s lives?”
The areas from Topeka to Market on Douglas and from William to 1st Street on Broadway were shut down for several hours.
The Jackson County Sheriff recently enacted a stricter pursuit policy for his department. Terrific!
However, this was after the previous sheriff loosened the policy. Sadly, the negligent actions of a Deputy caused great bodily harm to an innocent citizen.
Dashcam video from a May 9, 2018, traffic collision shows a Jackson County sheriff’s deputy run a red light and crash into another vehicle, severely injuring the other driver. The deputy was involved in a pursuit that started with a broken taillight.
The new policy provides stricter guidelines for police chases.
It replaces the 2017 police pursuit policy that was suspended by Sheriff Daryl Forté, a former Kansas City Police chief who was elected to his current position last year.
The new policy provides greater detail and changes portions of the former policy to restrict circumstances in which officers can engage in high speed chases.
Both the 2017 and 2019 policies state that when bystanders are present the subject of a pursuit must present a “clear and immediate danger.”
While the 2017 policy does not provide a definition of “clear and immediate danger,” the 2019 policy defines it as “any deliberate or intentional act by the pursued vehicle or occupants that would bring fear of death or serious bodily injury or extreme property damage to either the deputies or citizens.” The policy also states that “clear and immediate danger” cannot exist for minor traffic stops or speeding.
The policy creates guidelines for when an officer must end a pursuit. For instance, officers are directed to end chases once communications are established with a law enforcement helicopter or other aircraft that is able to track the vehicle. Similarly, if a deputy successfully attaches a StarChase tracking device to a car, officers must end the chase.
The 2019 policy also prohibits deputies from engaging in pursuits if their dashcams are not working unless the suspect is armed or be known to have committed a dangerous felony.
The new policy was obtained by the Star through an open records request. The 2017 policy was provided to the Star by Brett T. Burmeister, the attorney for Christopher S. Reed, who was the bystander injured in the 2018 chase.
Reed, 30, was thrown from his car and suffered head injuries, spinal injuries and a broken clavicle when Deputy Sean Stoff, 34, slammed into his car after running a red light without his emergency lights and sirens on.
Stoff turned his lights and sirens off after a StarChase tracker was applied to the car but violated department policy by continuing the pursuit without his lights and sirens on. He was charged with misdemeanor careless and imprudent driving Wednesday.
“Obviously the policy itself is not the main culprit in this case,” Burmeister told the Star in an email. “Rather, it’s the deputy who completely disregarded the policy.”
Forte said in a Facebook post Thursday that he became concerned about the policy last year after he was elected. He clarified in another post Friday that his decision was not prompted by only one incident.
“The restrictive vehicle pursuit policy did not occur solely because of one incident,” Forte said in Friday’s post.
adminChanging Pursuit Policies – Often After Tragedy
Police Chases For Misdemeanor Traffic Violations MUST STOP!
Independence Missouri is like way too many other jurisdictions. They allow officers virtually unlimited ability to engage in very dangerous, high speed police chases through city streets. And in cities like this, each and every day innocent citizens are injured and killed.
The answer is simple. STOP pursuing for misdemeanors and simple property crimes. Only pursue for violent felonies, and only then if no other safer options are available.
More training is necessary. Greater usage of technology tools is encouraged. And law enforcement MUST be held accountable for making poor decisions that injure or kill innocents.
Following is an excellent report by Cat Reid at television station KSHB 41. Go to their site and watch the video. Bad decisions abound, especially running at 80 MPH with a mud-streaked windshield. It is horrible that two innocent people were grievously injured, but tell me the pursuing officer could have seen a kid running into the street. It is actually amazing that no one was killed.
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — On a Saturday afternoon in January, Sherry Ross decided to drive her 91-year-old father to Mass.
“He was going, ‘you didn’t have to pick me up for church,’ and I said, ‘Dad, you don’t need to be driving when I can drive you,’” Ross said, remembering that day.
Just a few minutes later, Ross heard sirens near the intersection of Sterling Avenue and Blue Ridge Boulevard. Her father saw what was coming and tried to verbalize a warning.
“He yelled ‘watch,’ but he never got ‘out’ out,” Ross said.
The driver of a maroon pickup truck ran a red light and slammed into Ross’s small SUV, totaling it. Ross walked away with a broken sternum, while her dad suffered a broken sternum, eight broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Later, Ross would learn what had happened that day was more than just a horrific crash.
“It was awful, but I think what was so frustrating then was knowing it was a chase,” Ross said.
An Independence police officer attempted a traffic stop on Jan. 26 near the intersection of 23rd Street and Harvard Avenue. The officer’s dashboard camera video shows the suspect took off down Harvard, a quiet neighborhood street.
When the driver hit a dead end on 25th Street, he quickly reversed toward Sterling Avenue. As the man, later identified as James W. Mathis, tried to turn around, his tires became stuck in a muddy lot. Eventually he was able to drive off, spewing mud across the officer’s windshield in the process.
It’s hard to see what happened next, since the windshield wipers on the patrol car smeared the mud, impairing visibility in the video. However, according to a police report, the chase continued down Sterling Avenue, with Mathis running two red lights and reaching speeds of 84 miles per hour.
The four-minute pursuit ended as he ran a third light, crashing into Ross’s car.
The chase that ended in the crash, injuring Ross and her father, was initiated over a traffic violation. The officer said Mathis wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
“I was livid,” Ross said about learning the reason for the pursuit.
Her niece, Angela Angotti, felt the same way.
“We have to count on the law enforcement professionals to be calm and to make good decisions,” Angotti said, “and to have a police chase over a seat belt violation just seems unnecessary. It’s an unnecessary risk.”
Independence pursuit policy
Both Independence and Kansas City, Kansas, police allow pursuits for any crime.
Sherry Ross and her father are not the first people injured as a result of those chases. Over a five-year period, Independence pursuits led to $1.1 million in payouts for property damage and lawsuit settlements.
Multiple requests for interviews with the chiefs of both departments went unanswered.
An IPD spokesman did respond to some questions via email, emphasizing that the collateral damage of chases rests on the shoulders of suspects.
“It is the criminal who places the public at risk and puts themselves in danger for failing to lawfully comply with the vehicle stop,” Independence police spokesman John Syme said in the email. “Police officers are attempting to prevent crime and protect society.”
Syme declined to provide specifics on the pursuit involving Ross and her father, citing the potential for litigation in the case.
According to the Independence pursuit policy,“pursuits for traffic violations or for misdemeanors will be avoided or terminated if they pose unnecessary risk to life or property.”
“Oftentimes you’ll hear a pursuit immediately terminated if it’s just for traffic violations,” he said at the time. “But we also know that something that appears to be traffic at first, maybe just someone running a red light, could be indicative of something much more serious. Maybe they just committed a crime.”
That logic doesn’t hold up in the eyes of University of South Carolina professor Geoffrey Alpert, who has been studying high-risk police activities, including pursuits, for more than 30 years.
“You can’t justify a pursuit based on what you think or based on what you might know,” he said.
A model policy
Through his years of research, Alpert came to the conclusion that department’s policies have to draw a clear line in the sand.
“I think it’s important for management, the chief or the sheriff, to come in and say if you’re not chasing for a violent crime, then it’s not worth it,” he said.
Alpert points to the New Orleans Police Department’s policyas a model for other agencies. That policy allows for pursuits only when officers have “reasonable suspicion that a fleeing suspect has committed or has attempted to commit a crime of violence…and the escape of the subject would pose an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.”
In the policy, a crime of violence is defined as “a felony involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious bodily injury or death.”
The NOPD policy prohibits pursuits for property and misdemeanor offenses and traffic or civil infractions.
Alpert argues such a policy is not only safer for the public, but also better for officers, who have mere seconds to make hard choices.
“It’s just not fair to the officers to force them to make all those decisions. I think management should do it from the boardroom,” he said.
Experts say another important attribute of any policy is the inclusion of an independent third party that can make the call on whether or not to pursue.
“As strange as it may sound, it sort of takes the heat off of the officer for that feeling of saying I just let somebody go. It wasn’t their decision,” said John Hamilton, an associate professor of criminal justice at Park University.
The IPD’s pursuit policy states that “the decision to initiate a vehicular pursuit rests with the individual officer.” However, a supervisor can terminate the chase at any time.
In 2018, 66 percent of initiated pursuits were terminated, with the majority of those decisions being made by the officers behind the wheel, according to IPD.
A call for change
It’s unclear why the department allowed the chase that injured Ross and her father to continue.
After the crash, officers determined James Mathis’s girlfriend and his 7-year-old son were in the backseat during the pursuit, according to the police report. Neither was wearing a seat belt during the chase, and Mathis was charged with endangerment of a child.
Police said they found 0.2 grams of marijuana in the center console of the truck, as well as drug paraphernalia, including a glass pipe and scale. According to the police report, an officer also found 1.4 grams of meth and a pipe in Mathis’s jeans pocket.
Before the chase, his record only reflected two traffic warrants and a revoked license. Now he’s facing charges for fleeing and for the crash.
For Sherry Ross, the end doesn’t justify the means.
“Something’s got to change,” she said.
The family is determined to see that happen. Angotti is an attorney and knows that one way to fight the issue is in court.
But she doesn’t want to sue the city of Independence. Instead, she wants her family compensated and the pursuit policy changed.
“It would be nice if it didn’t have to go this way this time, and if we can do something and use this to help other people,” she said.
adminSeat Belt Violation Pursuit Injures Innocent Bystanders
Changing how they chase: Most officers in Minnesota are forced to make judgment calls behind the wheel
February 18, 2019 10:20 PM
Police officers across Minnesota are forced to make a judgment call while behind the wheel on whether to engage in high-speed chases that could potentially jeopardize innocent lives.
Nearly 200 agencies leave those high-risk decisions up to officer discretion, according to a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS analysis of pursuit policies.
A national expert on police chases says those findings show departments are putting officers at a disadvantage by asking them to make risky decisions on the fly.
“You are putting that officer in a horrible position,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina, who has studied police chases for 30 years. “How fair is that to the officer?”
Alpert says such policies put officers and the public at risk.
Since last summer, nine innocent people have been injured or killed in the Twin Cities in the middle of police chases or moments after they were terminated.
“The person who flees from police should be punished… but not at the cost of my family’s life,” Alpert said.
Yet, high-speed chases are up 170 percent in Minnesota since 2010, according to the Department of Public Safety.
The review of pursuit policies show 27 departments – less than 15 percent – have banned chases over such violations. Those departments only allow officers to chase violent offenders suspected of committing crimes like armed robbery, assault or murder.
“We want to make things better, not worse,” said Chief Eric Gieseke with the Burnsville Police Department. His department banned chases nearly 30 years ago.
Gieseke says he wants his officers to ask themselves one question when making that decision: Is the chase worth dying for?
“Having a restrictive policy actually helps the officer because it gives them clear guidelines,” he said. “They’re not stuck in the middle of a very difficult decision making process during a rapidly evolving situation. It’s clear.”
In other departments, officers are expected to assess a variety of factors in a matter of seconds including traffic, weather, and the ability to arrest the suspect later.
“We want to make sure we’re not putting the public in harm’s way, unnecessarily,” Gieseke said. “We also want to protect the officers and give them the opportunity to go home safe at the end of the night.”
A recent national study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice suggests that restrictive pursuit policies, like the one in Burnsville, are becoming more common throughout the country. However, the data does not show how restrictive.
“I think you’re the first group that has really looked at a large number of policies and has determined what’s restrictive and what’s not,” said Alpert. “I would like to see this done in every state. I think the country needs to look at it. We need to know what our police are doing.”
‘Should have been called off a long time ago’
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS started analyzing police chases after a suspect chased by a state trooper for driving over the speed limit crashed into a Minneapolis playground. Three children were seriously injured in the crash.
Dash-camera video later released by the state patrol showed the trooper regretted that chase.
“Should have been called off a long time ago,” he said in the recording.
The agency is now reviewing its policy. However, when asked in December whether that chase was reasonable, Col. Matt Langer defended the troopers’ decisions.
“Our pursuit policy affords troopers the discretion in making those decisions and they’re trained on both the skill of driving fast and the decision making required,” Langer said. “Ultimately, it’s a subjective test.”
Gieseke, the police chief in Burnsville, says changing such policies is not always a popular decision.
“It wasn’t well received by a lot of officers, quite frankly,” Gieseke said. “There was a perception that everybody would come to Burnsville to commit crimes or all the bad men and women would get away, but that hasn’t been the case. The data doesn’t support that.”
adminMinnesota Police Chases Up 170 Percent since 2010
More and more people are recognizing the highly political nature of Milwaukee’s “pursue for any reason until the wheels fall off” police chase changes. Officers are dying. Innocent citizens are dying. Fleeing vehicles are screaming down Milwaukee’s densely populated neighborhoods at 75 miles per hour and faster – putting EVERYONE at risk. And in 2018, MPD was doing this THREE TIMES EVERY SINGLE DAY.
This is insanity. This is not working. This is killing people. And this needs to stop.
If it takes replacing Aldermen and members of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, then I encourage Milwaukee voters to do something about it.
Do it before some you love is killed unnecessarily.
Thanks to Urban Milwaukee reporter Bruce Murphy for reaching out to me and for writing this thoughtful article about Milwaukee’s out of control police pursuits.
Last week Saturday another person was killed after high-speed police chase. A Fox 6 report included a cell phone video of the police car barreling down a city street and covered the resulting carnage that occurred.
This was in response to what police believed was “drug dealing” with no further information offered. The police did not say the person chased was suspected of committing any violence, which would be consistent with most such chases in America, which are in response to non-violent offenses, typically traffic violations.
The 27-year-old man being chased sped through a stop sign, crashing into another vehicle and then careening into a home, where his car burst into flames and ignited the house. “The vehicle sheered the gas main to the house, creating a very dangerous situation inside the house,” said Battalion Chief Erich Roden, Milwaukee Fire Department.
The man being chased was killed and the driver he hit was injured. “Jazzmine Salaam says the speeding vehicle smashed into her cousin driving an SUV at the intersection of 13th and Capitol. She was taken to the hospital with minor injuries,” as Fox 6 reported.
David Miller, the homeowner, might have been killed but wasn’t at home at the time. He described the explosion to Channel 12, saying it “busted all my windows, everything melted… the TV melted. I lost about 20 good guitars.”
Miller is “still in shock,” says his brother and his home, which was uninsured, is almost completely destroyed. The brother has just launched a crowd funding campaign to pay for a new home.
All told that’s one person killed, one injured and one in shock with an incinerated home, all to capture one guy who may have been involved in a drug deal. That’s how Milwaukee’s police pursuit policy works these days.
Last year, Milwaukee police engaged in 940 chases, nearly triple the number in 2017, and well more than the total number of pursuits for the seven year period from 2008 through 2014, when there were 858 pursuits. These numbers come from a new report by the Fire and Police Commission (FPC).
Slightly more than half of the pursuits in 2018 — 491 — hit a speed of more than 75 miles per hour, and most were on city streets. The percent of police chases that exceeded 75 miles per hour has risen from just 10 percent in 2012 to 52 percent last year, the report found.
About 18 percent of the chases terminated in a car crash and 25 percent caused a car accident. Thirteen officers were injured during the pursuits, one fatally, 112 people being chased were injured, five of whom died and 38 bystanders were injured.
Yet only 21 percent of the pursuits involved a violent felony. Most — nearly 70 percent — involved a traffic violation or reckless vehicle.
And the vast majority of pursuits didn’t catch the subject: Just 38 percent of the pursuits resulted in apprehensions.
The skyrocketing increase in pursuits is the direct result of a new policy pushed for in 2017 by Milwaukee Common Council members. A letter from 13 of 15 council members noted a rise in killings by hit-and-run drivers, and also claimed that speeding, red light-running and reckless driving were occurring at record levels.
Then-Police Chief Edward A. Flynn opposed any change in the pursuit policy.
He had already strengthened the pursuit policy in 2015, which allowed police to chase if either the vehicle or occupants had been involved in a felony or attempted felony, or if the vehicle or occupant(s) presents a clear and immediate threat to the safety of others,” which appeared to target reckless driving.
The result was a significant increase in pursuits, to 263 in 2015 and 306 in 2016 — more pursuits than in any year since 2002. But the council wanted still more pursuits and so the Fire and Police Commission ordered a stronger policy.
A new policy created in September 2017 added language allowing a chase if “the occupant(s) of the vehicle are engaged in drug dealing” and if “the necessity of immediate apprehension outweighs the level of danger created by the vehicle pursuit, as in the case of the vehicle engaging in reckless driving.”
The resulting massive increase in pursuits doesn’t seem to have done much about the hit-and-runs and speeding cited by council members: in 2018 crashes caused by speeding were up by 32 percent and crashes caused by hit-and-run drivers rose 17 percent, the latest police report shows.
Flynn’s successor, Police Chief Alfonso Morales, said the increased pursuits have led to a drop in vehicle theft, carjackings and violent crime. “Is it dangerous? Absolutely it is,” as Morales described the pursuits to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But we’re always looking for an alternative way to make it safer.”
Actually the department had an alternative. Under Flynn it had adopted new technology developed by a private company called Star Chase, whereby police shoot at GPS “bullet” about the size of a soup can that can stick to a fleeing car. A 2014 report found it is effective in 55 percent of cases, meaning it sticks to a car and an arrest is later made. That compares to the apprehension rate of 38 percent for last year’s 940 chases.
“During the year 2016 MPD deployed this technology 156 times, successfully attaching it to fleeing vehicles 112 times,” a past FPC report noted.
The approach enables police to avoid high-speed chases that often are aggressive adrenaline-fueled contests between officers and a suspect that lose track of innocent bystanders in a dense urban setting. “Studies show they almost go into pure tunnel vision when they begin a pursuit. The adrenaline kicks in,” said Jonathan Farris, a pursuit-safety advocate who lives in Madison, WI, in a story by McClatchey.
Whereas the Star Chase devices “give officers time to [let the adrenaline high pass], so by the time the pursuit is over, they can think more clearly and make better tactical decisions,” as MPD Inspector Terrence Gordontold Governing magazine in 2016. Yet since Flynn left, there has been no discussion of this technology.
A model policy by the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends pursuits “only if the officer has a reasonable belief that the suspect, if allowed to flee, would present a danger to human life or cause serious injury. In general, pursuits for minor violations are discouraged.”
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, whose board of directors consists of police chiefs, told McClatchey there is no evidence that restrictions on pursuits lead to increases in crime and lawlessness. His organization advocates for sharp restrictions on pursuits.
“There are too many cases of people dying needlessly – tragedies that trump whatever the other arguments there are about people perceiving this as getting away with infractions,” Wexler said. “We’re talking about saving lives here.”
Farris, who heads Pursuit for Change, a Wisconsin-based advocacy group for victims of police pursuits, spoke to the Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission in 2017 to urge it not to push for more pursuits. He has since written letters to the commission urging a reconsideration of the policy, with no response. His impression was that the FPC, though it is supposed to be an independent agency, was simply doing the Common Council’s bidding.
Farris became an advocate after his son was killed in 2007 during a police pursuit in Massachusetts. “My son and his girlfriend were riding in a taxi which was t-boned by an SUV pursued by the police for an illegal U-turn,” he recalled in an interview with Urban Milwaukee. “My son and the taxi driver were killed and the girl spent years in rehabilitation.”
Farris believes Milwaukee will eventually be forced to change its policy. “They’ve already killed multiple innocent people. There are going to be more people killed and that’s what’s going to inevitably change the policy. Or there will be a humongous lawsuit against the city.”
Meanwhile keeps your eyes peeled for high speed chases. On average there were nearly three such pursuits per day last year.
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