Honorable Tom Barrett
Mayor, City of Milwaukee
200 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Dear Mayor Barrett,
On New Year’s Eve yet another Milwaukee police chase ended with the deaths of three – one being a two-year old child. I am beside myself with grief – for that child and for the City of Milwaukee.
How, other than in a totally political environment, could Milwaukee have fallen so very far in such a short time?
On Thursday, December 6, the Milwaukee Police Department announced that carjackings were down. Fox6Now reported that “Police credit change in pursuit policy for dramatic decrease in carjackings.” This is a story about Milwaukee’s quest to reduce joyriding and stolen vehicles. It is an honorable mission, but officials are using a seriously flawed and incredibly deadly battle plan.
Is it not true that carjackings were already declining under the former, safer pursuit policy, because that policy specifically did permit pursuits of carjackers?
Almost all of Milwaukee’s 2018 pursuit-related deaths and many injuries were as a direct result of MPD’s new, weakened policy that permits dangerous high-speed chases for traffic offenses. Yet it would appear that this new policy’s only actual results are many more dangerous chases, more innocent bystander deaths and injuries, and even an officer’s death – virtually all for non-violent felony pursuits.
Fox story referenced a critical statistic. “In 2017, there were 386 pursuits. As of Dec. 6, 2018, there had been more than 800.” These stats indicate MPD will conduct over 900 pursuits in 2018. Officers and innocent citizens were placed in danger 500 times more in 2018 than in 2017. How can this be acceptable to anyone?
Milwaukee residents and visitors to the city have a very real reason to be frightened. Think about it: These stats represent an average of 18 life-endangering pursuits per week, and that does not include the many pursuits started in surrounding jurisdictions which later cross into Milwaukee.
So, I ask you sir, “What is the price, in human life and suffering, that Milwaukee is willing to pay to apprehend speeders, other non-violent felony driving violators and stolen vehicles?”
I also ask you another critical question. “What happens to those who are apprehended under this revised and dangerous policy?” I contend that the answer is no different than under the previous MPD administration’s more restrictive and safer pursuit policies – not enough.
There are many other questions you should be asking and answering.
Based on 18 pursuits per day, do you REALLY BELIEVE this new policy is working?
Does the DA ever charge for “felony eluding?” I haven’t heard anything about that.
What happens to apprehended car thieves?
Are all of these “dangerous criminals” being convicted?
Are these criminals ultimately serving any jail time, or simply being released back onto the streets 48 hours after their apprehension?
How many stolen-vehicle pursuits end in the stolen vehicle being totaled or damaged anyway?
With an obscenely high 900 pursuits in 2018, have you consider comparing Milwaukee with other major cities? I am willing to bet that such a study will show Milwaukee is wildly out of statistical norms.
If this greatly weakened pursuit policy is actually working, shouldn’t pursuits be declining, not rising like a SpaceX rocket?
And, if this policy was actually working, shouldn’t pursuit-related deaths and injuries be declining? That is obviously NOT the case.
In the New Year’s Eve pursuit, both the old and new policies would have authorized the initiation of a pursuit. But there are still questions even in this case.
Was policy followed once the pursuit exceeded 80mph on city streets?
At what point should the safety of citizens have been deemed more important (by the pursuing officers and their command) than the desire for immediate apprehension of this suspect?
Did any of the pursuing officers have MPD’s already-deployed GPS technology? That would have allowed a tag and follow-safely scenario.
Finally, consider this:
If that little girl had been a hostage held in a building, she likely would have been freed during MPD’s hostage negotiations. But there is no negotiating at 90 mph, just sudden and unnecessary death.
If officers had shot and killed as many people as have died in Milwaukee’s 2018 pursuits, you and city alderpersons would be demanding investigations, changes, and corrective actions. Yet, because these deaths were caused by 3,000-pound bullets and not those fired from guns, there is a deafening silence from city officials.
There is no dishonor for public officials to reassess policies that are not working. In fact, that is an obligation. Yet I contend, for contentious political reasons, Milwaukee officials are conveniently ignoring the facts and are forgetting those killed and injured in these 2018 chases.
These people, their stories, their families and their friends simply end up as collateral damage, forgotten before the wreckage is swept from the street.
But I do not forget. Ever. It’s personal for me; and has been since my son was killed in an equally unnecessary police chase.
Innocents are already killed too often in violent felony situations. Unnecessary bystander deaths as a result of non-violent felony chases makes it even more critical that Milwaukee return to a safer, violent felony-only pursuit policy.
If you missed the daily carnage reports, here are several truly horrible 2018 consequences caused by Milwaukee’s weakened pursuit policies.
Milwaukee police officer Charles Irvine killed. LINK
Other major cities invest in training and technology to reduce pursuits and still catch criminals. Milwaukee already has an excellent start using technology that will reduce the need for unnecessary pursuits. As I understand, the original MPD 2018 budget had additional funds allocated to equip even more police vehicles with GPS technology. Did they take advantage of this?
Unless saner minds prevail, there will most certainly be more Milwaukee police chase deaths, injuries and the lawsuits that will follow.
Mayor, you and I both know that Milwaukee CAN do better. Milwaukee MUST do better. Much better. But it takes a committed and courageous leader to drive such a change. I truly hope that you are such a leader.
Wishing Milwaukee a significantly safer 2019.
Pursuit For Change
adminAn Open Letter to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett
I recently read about your desire to pass legislation creating greater consistency in pursuit-policies across Georgia jurisdictions (news story below). It was disappointing that your SB 42 was unable to gain traction. I obviously don’t need to tell you, but legislation affecting and mandating law enforcement follow certain rules is an incredibly tough hill to climb.
I applaud your efforts and I know it is critically important for laws to be changed if we truly want to save bystander and law enforcement officer lives. It is especially important to me because my 23-year old son was an innocent victim, killed in a totally unnecessary, misdemeanor traffic violation pursuit outside of Boston.
My name is Jon Farris. I am the founder and Chief Advocate of Pursuit For Change, a national police pursuit victims’ advocacy group. The organization works with legislators, media and law enforcement. We are primarily focused on LEO departmental pursuit policies, laws related to pursuits, pursuit reduction technology and increased officer driving training. Each of these actions will reduce unnecessary police chases and prevent innocent citizen and police officer deaths and injuries. We continue to work toward the following goals:
Mandatory Federal Statistical Tracking of pursuit injuries and deaths
Greater grant funding to support law enforcement usage of pursuit reduction technology
Law enforcement funding for pursuit driving training
Pursuit policy modifications including greater inter-jurisdictional policy consistency and movement toward violent felony-only pursuits
Jonesboro Democrat wants police chase policy for all of Georgia
Posted: 4:08 p.m. Friday, December 14, 2018
A southwest Atlanta woman was heading to church in January 2016 with her two grandchildren when a man fleeing College Park police slammed into their car, killing all three. Now their family is urging Georgia lawmakers to establish a statewide policy for when officers should pursue a suspect and when they should call off that chase to keep the public safe.
“State Patrol gets a year of training,” said Doug Partridge, whose children and mother-in-law were killed in the crash. “But city police aren’t getting enough training to know how to handle these chases.”
While statewide statistics weren’t available, the loss of Partridge’s family members isn’t an isolated incident. A South Fulton police officer pursuing a stolen vehicle last month collided with a van, killing three men.
State Sen. Gail Davenport, D-Jonesboro, said she plans to file legislation in January that would create a standard for state, county and city police agencies that authorize police pursuits. She proposed a similar bill in 2016, but it received no traction.
“We support the police. We respect the police,” she said. “But we want to make sure no innocent lives are lost.”
Law enforcement officials who spoke at a hearing Friday to study police pursuits agreed that specialized training was necessary to keep the public and officers safe, but they told senators they believe those decisions should be made by each jurisdiction.
“I know that a lot of times the incidents that occur are very difficult, and they’re ones that are very emotional,” Georgia State Patrol Col. Mark McDonough said. “But for the bigger picture, I think that it’s important … that folks need to realize that when a police officer signals them to pull over, it’s their responsibility under the law to do so.”
Some local jurisdictions, including Atlanta and Dunwoody, don’t allow officers to pursue cars when the driver isn’t actively violent or accused of committing a felony. South Fulton police changed their policy on pursuing stolen cars Nov. 27, about two weeks after last month’s fatal crash.
It is up to the officer to weigh the seriousness of the crime against the threat of endangering the public and decide whether to call off the pursuit.
Joi Partridge said she wants officers statewide to get the proper training to know when it becomes unsafe to the public to continue to pursue a suspect who is fleeing — such as when the chase enters a neighborhood. Had that been the policy of College Park officers in 2016, she said she believes her mother, 12-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter would still be alive.
“It doesn’t make sense to chase through a neighborhood where the speed limit is 25 or 35 miles an hour,” she said. “After the accident, they didn’t even apprehend the suspect.”
Partridge and her husband are suing the College Park and Atlanta police departments in the deaths in their family.
Police pursuits: Are they worth risk of injury, death?
An OpEd by Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
Thanks for an interesting and in-depth story regarding police pursuits in your area. I am encouraged when reporters delve into this national issue.
It is very clear that Richmond Police Department, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police all have weak pursuit policies compared with more progressive jurisdictions across the US. Those stronger policies specifically define (and limit) when an officer can and cannot chase.
Over and over and over we listen to chiefs and sheriffs with similarly lacking policies espouse their excellent training and how qualified their officers are to decide when and how long and how far and how fast to pursue. Yet over 90% of pursuits are started after a non violent felony crimes – crimes which were not endangering anyone, like 4-year-old Madilynn Roberts above, UNTIL THE PURSUIT BEGAN.
As a result of departments continuing to sanction pursuits for non violent felony crimes and misdemeanor infractions, thousands of innocent citizens are killed and/or maimed annually. Additionally, on average, seven (7) LEOs are killed and scores more are injured. Six (6) officers have been killed in pursuit-related crashes so far in 2018.
Although there are a handful of states that mandate reporting of pursuit-related deaths, there is still no mandatory 50-State or Federal tracking of police chase-related deaths or injuries. As a result, we know there are many more pursuit injuries and deaths that are simply tallied as vehicular “accidents.”
Yet dangerous police chases persist like an antibiotic-resistant pandemic. Way too often we hear the exact same comment from departmental leadership, “We feel we’re doing as much as we can.” But they are NOT. If they were truly doing “all that they could,” then their pursuit-driving policies would be significantly stronger and they would cease to put their officers and innocent citizen at risk for petty crimes and misdemeanor traffic violations.
At Pursuit For Change and Pursuit Response we are working to highlight and actually do something about this massive public travesty. We are working diligently with state and Federal legislators for:
– Mandatory Federal Statistical Tracking of pursuit injuries and deaths
– Greater grant funding to support law enforcement usage of pursuit reduction technology – Law enforcement funding for significantly more pursuit driving training – Pursuit policy modifications including greater inter-jurisdictional policy consistency and movement toward violent felony-only pursuits
Thanks again for your reporting. It is critical that you and other reporters keep asking the difficult questions. Too many folks in the general public have no idea how pervasive the #PoliceChase problem is. And too often they find out TOO LATE – only after a loved one is killed or seriously injured.
So, to answer your question, non violent felony pursuits ARE SIMPLY NOT worth the risk of injury and death to LEOs and innocent bystanders.
Police pursuits: Are they worth risk of injury, death?
by Mike Emery (@PI_Emory) (email@example.com)
Updated 9:36 a.m. ET Dec. 21, 2018
RICHMOND, Ind. — A tree occupied space where the white Ford’s passenger side should have been. The flying car had smashed sideways into the tree and wrapped itself partially around the trunk.
It looked horrendous as Richmond Fire Department personnel worked to free a 23-year-old passenger from the vehicle. Haley Caldwell and 4-year-old Madilynn Roberts both sustained serious injuries when the 19-year-old driver, Daniel Zenon Arguijo, lost control of the Ford while leading police on a high-speed pursuit Nov. 30 down U.S. 40. The incident sparked a social-media debate about the value of that pursuit versus the risk associated with it.
The injuries were serious, but not fatal. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case when suspects flee police. And about a third of those who do die aren’t even involved in the pursuits.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released statistics that the United States recorded 7,090 deaths related to police pursuits for the 20-year period from 1996 through 2015. That averages 355 — or nearly one a day — per year. Of those deaths, 88 were law enforcement officers, 4,637 were in the vehicle being chased, 2,088 were in a vehicle not involved and 277 were innocent bystanders.
Which leads to the important question for communities and law enforcement agencies: Are police pursuits worth it?
Richmond Police Department, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police all have policies and procedures in place that permit officers to pursue fleeing suspects at the officer’s discretion. Nationwide, some agencies absolutely prohibit vehicle pursuits. Those agencies decided the risks to citizen and officer safety outweigh the need for suspect apprehension.
Accidents, injuries and worse occur regularly nationwide when drivers flee law enforcement and officers choose to pursue. According to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics’ analysis of the International Association of Chiefs of Police pursuit database, 15 percent of pursuits end in crashes. The database recorded 5,568 pursuits from 115 agencies from 2009 to 2013. One in every 200 pursuits in the database ended with a fatality, and there were two serious and 10 minor injuries for every 100 pursuits.
Those serious accidents and deaths occur in Wayne County, too.
Police pursuits in Wayne County over the years
A review of Pal Item stories involving police pursuits from 2011 through 2018 revealed 18 chases that ended in crashes. Two of those crashes killed the driver of the fleeing vehicle.
On March 11, 2013, Richmond Police Department pursued a wanted man onto Indiana 227. Even though officers discontinued the pursuit because of weather conditions and the dangerous way the suspect operated his Pontiac, the vehicle left the roadway and struck two trees, killing the driver.
On May 23, 2017, the Indiana State Police pulled over a driver in Henry County, and when the officer suspected impairment and asked the driver to step out of the car, the driver sped off. When entering Wayne County, the Cadillac was speeding enough to fly over a cable barrier in the median into oncoming westbound traffic. A head-on collision with a pickup killed the fleeing driver and injured two people in the pickup.
Even since the Nov. 30 incident, there have been pursuit incidents in Wayne County and Indiana.
A Muncie man escaped one multi-county pursuit of his Ford on Dec. 17, then led another pursuit after state troopers located him in Wayne County. David Reed Shoemaker, 43, lost control of his Ford, which left Mineral Springs Road and came to rest on its side in a wooded area. Shoemaker was not seriously injured.
An Indiana police officer was not as lucky Dec. 12. Hundreds attended Tuesday’s funeral services for Sgt. Benton Bertram, 33, in Charlestown, Indiana. The nine-year veteran of the Charlestown Police Department died when his police vehicle left Indiana 3 in Scott County and struck a tree. According to the online Officer Down Memorial Page, Bertram is the sixth law enforcement officer in the United States to die this year while engaged in a police pursuit.
Officers constantly balance community safety with the need to engage in pursuits or let suspects go
Of the 7,090 deaths related to pursuits from 1996 through 2015, 192 occurred in Indiana and 231 in Ohio. Seven of the Indiana deaths were police officers, 129 were people in the fleeing vehicle, 53 were people in another vehicle and three were bystanders. In Ohio, one was an officer, 100 were in fleeing vehicles, 116 were in other vehicles and 14 were bystanders.
By any count, pursuits pose one of the most dangerous actions police officers face. Officers must constantly balance community safety with the need to pursue. Is the community safe if officers let the suspect go? Is the community safe if officers continue to pursue?
It’s a tough spot with no easy answers.
“We’ll let people go we shouldn’t have,” RPD Chief Jim Branum said, “but it’s better to err on the side of caution.”
Branum said RPD has had 14 vehicle pursuits during 2018. None of those ended in an accident or with injuries.
And that’s how pursuits most often end. The International Association of Chiefs of Police database shows the pursued driver gives up and stops 29 percent of the time and 25 percent end when the police discontinue the pursuit, 17 percent end with the suspect eluding officers, 9 percent end with police intervention and 2 percent end with the suspect vehicle becoming disabled. Those cause no harm; however, the 15 percent that involve collisions do.
And that’s a rate too steep for some. The Bureau of Justice Statistics said an estimated 2 percent of local police forces and 1 percent of sheriff’s offices prohibited vehicle pursuits completely. Allowing a suspect to escape, though, runs against officers’ instincts.
“It’s tough to tell a young policeman to let a violator go, because catching the bad guy is what they’re hired to do,” Branum said. “Then, letting this person go, is that a danger to the public, as well?”
RPD, sheriff’s department and state police policies allow pursuits; however, they list factors an officer should consider when deciding to pursue. The factors include:
The severity of the offense committed by the suspect, which can be complicated by the fact the act of fleeing in a vehicle is a felony itself in Indiana;
Whether the suspect can be identified for later arrest;
The safety of those involved and the general public;
The amount of traffic on the roadway;
The time of day;
The speeds associated with the pursuit:
The road conditions; and
The perceived driving ability of the suspect, such as if the driver an inexperienced teenager.
Those factors must continuously be considered as the officer pursues. The three departments also allow officers and supervisors the authority to discontinue a pursuit at any time.
“There are lots of things to consider in a short amount of time,” said Branum, who noted he has discontinued pursuits as a supervisor. “And they’re all things you learned after becoming a police officer.”
The rules also lay out procedures and techniques for the execution of pursuits. All three agencies also then require a review of each pursuit that analyzes justification for the pursuit, the communication involved, the supervisors’ roles, equipment or training needs, disciplinary concerns and policy or procedure revisions.
Sheriff Jeff Cappa said the sheriff’s department policy meets the standards established by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which has accredited the agency.
“I have a very professional staff, and they’re trained very well,” said Cappa, whose agency was involved in five pursuits during 2017 with no accidents or injuries. “They understand what the job requires in those situations.”
Traffic violations are primary reason why police pursuits begin, but officers often left wondering why suspects flee
The chase of Arguijo that ended with the Ford wrapped around a tree began with Arguijo running a stop sign and nearly striking Patrolman Adam Blanton’s vehicle. Arguijo sped away when Blanton turned to attempt a traffic stop.
That’s the most common reason for pursuits to begin, according to the Chiefs of Police database. Traffic violations trigger 69 percent of the pursuits, including 16 percent for speeding, 13 percent for reckless driving and 12 percent for suspicion of impaired driving. Suspects thought to have committed non-violent felonies — often auto theft — account for 12 percent of the pursuits, violent felonies for 9 percent and misdemeanors for 8 percent.
Pal Item stories about pursuits included those beginning for traffic stops, but officers also pursued a Florida murder suspect, an attempted murder suspect, robbery suspects, break-in suspects, suspects wanted on warrants, counterfeiters and suspected stolen vehicles. Even with traffic stops, there’s reason for officers to wonder why a suspect would commit a felony — the fleeing — to avoid a simple traffic citation.
“You don’t know why the person is fleeing,” Branum said.
During Blanton’s pursuit of Arguijo, the officer showed awareness of the traffic conditions on U.S. 40, which were lighter than expected at the time of the pursuit, and the fact other drivers were aware of Blanton and pulling to the side even before Arguijo reached them, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Blanton also noted he could not get close enough to procure Arguijo’s license plate number and that he was losing ground to Arguijo.
Still, Arguijo lost control when a vehicle pulled out of a shopping center entrance in front of him. Arguijo was later found to be under the influence of methamphetamine when he fled, running six stop signs and five red lights before he crashed. He has been charged with Level 5 felony resisting law enforcement causing serious injury, two counts of Level 6 felony driving under the influence of a controlled substance and causing serious injury, Level 6 felony criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon, Class A misdemeanor operating under the influence of a controlled substance while endangering a person and Class C misdemeanor operating under the influence of methamphetamine.
Shoemaker, who also crashed his Ford, fled to avoid a traffic stop in Muncie. He led police through four counties before his crash west of Centerville. Shoemaker was jailed on charges of Level 5 operating as a habitual traffic violator with a lifetime suspension and Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement.
Both men exceeded 90 miles per hour while they were being chased. The pursuit database shows 23 percent of pursuits topped 90 mph and 45 percent exceeded 70 mph. Wayne County pursuits regularly reach high speeds because of the roads that cross the county, including Interstate 70, U.S. 40, U.S. 35, Indiana 38 and Indiana 1.
Those roads also contribute to pursuits entering the county from other Indiana counties, such as Shoemaker, and from other states. Pal Item stories reflected pursuits that began in Delaware, Randolph, Henry, Union and Marion counties in Indiana, plus Preble and Montgomery counties in Ohio. In those instances, the Wayne County officers assist other agencies. On I-70, Branum said, local officers often are just asked to block exit ramps to keep the pursuit on the highway.
How police pursuits end: from stop sticks to roadblocks and other immobilization techniques
The proximity to the state border also means local pursuits travel into Ohio. Agency policies dictate what pursuits may be continued into Ohio and local officers’ roles once entering the neighboring state.
While the suspect driver in a pursuit might have a destination in mind, leaving pursuing officers “trying to keep up,” Branum said, officers have the advantage of their radios. That’s especially true now that the county has a centralized 911 center that dispatches calls for all county agencies. Dispatchers can communicate with every unit in the county, plus alert neighboring counties and states during a pursuit.
“It’s nearly impossible to outrun the radio, even if you can outrun the car,” Branum said.
The best conclusion to any pursuit is for the fleeing driver to pull over and surrender. Some will bail from their vehicles and attempt to run away from officers, which still is safer than high-speed pursuits. Other than that, officers can use tire deflators (stop sticks), roadblocks and sheer numbers to stop a fleeing vehicle. Only the state police permits precision immobilization techniques where officers use their vehicles to contact the fleeing vehicle, and then only under strict circumstances, such as lower speeds and by trained officers.
“The strategy is that there are enough units in the area so that the driver decides there’s no place to go,” said Branum, who noted stop sticks are never used on fleeing motorcycles that would crash as a result.
Pal Item pursuit stories noted five pursuits that were ended using stop sticks. Other pursuits ended when the fleeing drivers pulled into driveways, abandoned vehicles and ran, plowed into farm fields, traveled into yards, drove through a fence, struck law enforcement vehicles and crashed.
At least two technology-based ideas have been developed to assist officers in pursuits, but neither has become commonly accepted or used.
One idea involves firing a small, adhesive, GPS tag onto a fleeing vehicle from a launcher located behind the police vehicle’s grille. That allows officers to back off and track the suspect vehicle on a computer, delaying the arrest but eliminating a possibly dangerous pursuit. One drawback, however, is that a police vehicle equipped to fire the GPS tag must get close enough to the fleeing vehicle to attach the tag.
Another idea involves using a remote to disable the engine of a fleeing vehicle. Branum said he wonders how the fleeing vehicle would react if the engine suddenly shuts down at high speed.
Of pursuits in the Chiefs of Police database, 57 percent ended within three minutes and 66 percent covered less than three miles. The data shows that the longer a pursuit lasts and when more law enforcement vehicles become involved the likelihood of a crash increases.
Cappa and Branum said their officers are trained in emergency vehicle operation when they attend the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy for their initial training. The state then requires additional annual training in operating emergency vehicles. The training is classroom training and in-car training. Cappa said his officers received both kinds of training this year, while Branum said RPD alternates years between classroom and road training.
The road training, he said, usually is done at the Richmond Municipal Airport on a timed course that tests the necessary skills. Officers drive their day-to-day vehicles when training.
“We feel we’re doing as much as we can,” Branum said.
That training, however, does not make officers, such as Sgt. Bertram, infallible when in pursuit. Also, the drivers fleeing from law enforcement do not receive such training. And their vehicles might not be pursuit ready such as law enforcement pursuit-certified vehicles. Those drivers, much like Arguijo and Shoemaker, can lose control and crash.
In the end, officers must quickly and continuously weigh many factors and reach a decision about engaging in a pursuit.
“I think part of how you combat that is have a policy in place, have guidelines and lay down for the officers that these are the rules,” Branum said. “I think we’ve done well the past three of four years I’ve had reason to monitor it.”
Most times the officer will apprehend a driver who chose to flee, and sometimes that driver will present a clear — if not deadly — danger to society. But other times, suspects, police officers and innocent bystanders will also continue to sustain serious injuries and lose their lives because of police pursuits.
Which leads back to the important question for communities and law enforcement agencies: Are police pursuits worth it?
adminPolice pursuits: Are they worth risk of injury, death?
Opinion: Milwaukee Gambles with Citizen and Officer Lives
by Jonathan Farris
Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
December 10, 2018
On Thursday, December 6, the Milwaukee Police Department announced that carjackings were down and @Fox6Now Milwaukee reported that “police credit change in pursuit policy for dramatic decrease in carjackings.” This is a story about the City of Milwaukee and their quest to reduce joyriding and stolen vehicles. It is an honorable mission, but they are using a very deadly battle plan.
In this recent story, please note this critical statistic. “In 2017, there were 386 pursuits. As of Dec. 6, 2018, there had been more than 800.” MPD is on its way to over 900 pursuits this year. That means officers and innocent citizens will have been placed in harm’s way +500 times more in 2018 than in 2017.
That ought to scare anyone who lives in or near the city or ever visits Milwaukee. These stats mean there will be, on average, EIGHTEEN chases per week.
There are other glaring omissions in this news story.
First, as I understand the previous MPD vehicular pursuit policy, in place before the MFPC mandated now-retired Chief Flynn to weaken it, that policy specifically permitted pursuits for carjacked vehicles because carjacking is a crime of violence. Therefore, to assert that pursuits for traffic violations impact the number of carjackings is false.
Second, it’s critical to understand there is no causal relationship between increased pursuits for misdemeanor traffic violation and non-violent felonies and any reduction in carjackings (which are violent felonies).
Third, well before MPD’s pursuit policy was weakened, carjackings were on a downward track. From 2015-2017, carjackings went down 21% and from 2016 to 2017, the reduction was 12%. *
Finally, and of greatest importance, we have already forgotten about those who were killed and injured in these 2018 chases. It seems like personal tragedies end up as so much collateral damage, forgotten before the wreckage is cleaned from the street.
But I will not forget. Ever. It’s personal. Here are just a few of the horrible outcomes that these 2018 increased police chases have caused in Milwaukee. Note that the first three of these, each with the death of an officer or innocent, were pursuits as the result of non-violent felonies and traffic violations.
Milwaukee police officer killed, another injured in squad car crash. STORY HERE Reason for pursuit – “reckless operation violation” and not a violent crime. A Milwaukee police officer was killed Thursday and a fellow officer was injured when their squad car crashed while chasing another vehicle, authorities said. The death of Officer Charles Irvine Jr., 23, was confirmed during an evening news conference by Milwaukee police Chief Alfonso Morales.
Innocent citizen killed by driver fleeing police.STORY HERE Reason for pursuit – “reckless operation violation” and not a violent crime.
A 65-year-old woman, who was the front passenger of the Hyundai, suffered fatal injuries during the accident. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified her as Sylvia Tiwari. “She was like a mother, a mentor, a pastor. When they took her, they definitely took a part of me,” said a co-worker of Tiwari.
Debris in the road belonged to the car that was carrying Tawari and her daughter Latrece Hughes, now in critical condition.
‘This was horrific:’ 1 dead, 2 seriously injured after police pursuit ends in crash. STORY HERE Reason for pursuit – “reckless operation violation” and not a violent crime.
A police pursuit on Milwaukee’s south side led to a deadly rollover crash. One person died and a 20-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman, were seriously injured during the accident. They were both taken to a hospital for medical care.
3 in custody after police pursuit, crash involving taxi in Milwaukee. STORY HERE Reason for pursuit – “reckless operation violation”. Pursuing officers were unaware of possible earlier criminal activity. A high-speed pursuit with Milwaukee police ended in a violent crash near 27th and Hadley. The fleeing driver crashed into a taxi. Three people in the taxi were taken to the hospital.
There are more stories, more unsuspecting citizens and more courageous officers who will be caught up in the insanity of Milwaukee’s increased pursuits of non-violent felony offenders. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that has long tracked officer fatalities, published that “over the past 20 years, traffic-related incidents have been the number one cause of officer fatalities.” And sadly, as of 2018 Officer Irvine is a member of that group.
Milwaukee can do better – just ask other cities that invested in training and technology to reduce deaths and injuries related to pursuits. And as I said in an August 31, 2018 article, Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council have approved funding for additional technology tools to be used by MPD. Yet nothing has been done with those funds.
Until saner minds prevail, I will most certainly be reporting more of Milwaukee’s police chase deaths and serious injuries and the lawsuits that will follow.
*Office of Management Analysis & Planning, Milwaukee Police Department, 12/29/2017
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Police Department announced on Thursday, Dec. 6 a decrease in carjackings within the city. Police credited a change in the pursuit policy — with officers going after stolen cars and reckless drivers more often.
In 2017, there were 386 pursuits. As of Dec. 6, 2018, there had been more than 800.
“Some people thought they were just joyriding. Like, I could just ride around,” said Bianca Williams, Stop the Stollies.
Williams said there are carjackers in her family.
“Some of them got jail time,” said Williams.
That’s why Williams started “Stop the Stollies,” a campaign aimed at educating young people about the seriousness of stealing cars.
“Some of them get the (GPS) bracelet and really learned the hard way,” said Williams.
For those who end up losing control and crashing, the reality is even more harsh.
“So many young folks are losing their lives and others are losing their lives behind this senseless crime,” Williams said.
Milwaukee police said they are starting to see success in curbing carjackings. Police said public education, police patrols and investigation are helping.
“To go after those individuals who are prone and have committed these types of crimes in the past — so what we do is, we collaborate and focus on these individuals in order to interdict and capture them soon after we commit these crimes or turn into a spree,” said Assistant Chief Michael Brunson, Milwaukee Police Department.
Police said if you look at November carjackings for the past three years, they are down 59 percent. Since 2015, the average has been 56 a year. In November 2018, there were 23.
“Trying to hold kids more accountable. Again, it’s a good working relationship between the police department, our Criminal Investigation Bureau, our patrol people at the children’s center, the district attorney’s office — holding kids accountable for their actions,” said Assistant Chief Steve Caballero, Milwaukee Police Department.
One of the biggest factors in the decrease, according to police, is the fact that carjackers are getting the message that the police pursuit police has changed. Police do chase stolen cars and reckless drivers.
“God knows it’s been really hard, especially with the older population. They’ve been assaulted and different things. No one deserves that. Younger, older, no one deserves it,” said Williams.
Police said the community has been an important piece of the effort –and they do follow up on your tips.
adminOpinion: Milwaukee Gambles with Citizen and Officer Lives
by Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
Police chases kill hundreds of people every year. At least one third of those killed are innocent bystanders. Additionally, law enforcement officers (LEO) are always at risk while chasing or while en route to a pursuit.
In 2017 five (5) law enforcement officers were killed in pursuits. This year through September, four (4) officers have fallen in chase-related incidents.
And because Federal and State statistical tracking is so weak, we have absolutely no idea how many innocent bystanders and LEOs have been injured as a result of pursuit-related driving incidents.
Although there are not many organizations focused specifically on reducing dangerous police chases, there are some.
US Capitol 2018. Photo by Jon Farris. All rights reserved.
During October of 2018, members of the PursuitResponse group, of which Pursuit For Change is a member, visited Washington DC to meet with legislators once again. PursuitResponse’s core members are technologists offering advanced tools designed to reduce active police chases and to increase LEOs’ hands-on training designed to help them remain safe during high-risk vehicle events. The orgainzation has also partnered with and are supported by advocates and law enforcement.
So we continue to meet and work with legislators who are interested in and support our mission to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries of citizens and law enforcement officers. We will accomplish this through training, advocacy, and additional legislation.
Mandatory Federal statistical tracking of pursuit injuries and deaths
Greater (and specifically earmarked) grant funding for utilization of pursuit reduction technology and high-risk vehicle driver training
Pursuit policy modifications, focusing on movement toward violent felony-only chases
Creating legislative partnerships and new legislation is always a slow process. But please know that we will not give up, because it is so important. This is especially true for those of us who have personally suffered a direct pursuit-related loss. We want to reduce the liklihood that it isn’t you who receives a life-changing 4:00AM call…
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial 2018. Photo by Jon Farris. All rights reserved.
Jonathan Farris has never been able to make sense of his son’s death.
Paul Farris was 23 when the taxi he and his girlfriend were in was struck by an SUV being chased by a Massachusetts state trooper after a traffic violation.
“If Paul was killed as a result of a violent felony … where a person’s life was put at risk, we could understand that,” Farris said. “But Paul was killed as a result of a guy making an illegal U-turn.”
Now, 11 years later, Jonathan Farris can’t make sense of new billboards warning four-wheeled lawbreakers of the consequences of fleeing Milwaukee police.
“Does anyone actually believe that a few billboards will have ANY impact on Milwaukee’s criminal driving problems?” Farris, founder of Madison-based Pursuit for Change, asked this week in an open letter to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales and the city’s Fire and Police Commission.
The national organization advocates for safer police pursuit policies, more pursuit training for officers and technology that helps reduce the need for pursuits.
“Criminals could care less what is printed on a billboard,” Farris said.
The cost of the billboards is even more perplexing to Farris since Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council approved funding for expanded GPS tracking technology for new police vehicles.
“If you’re going to spend money, put it back into things that help reduce pursuits,” Farris says in the letter.
Morales has said the billboards serve as a reminder of the reckless driving initiative launched by Milwaukee police, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office and the State Patrol earlier this year.
He added that the initiative is bolstered by his department’s pursuit policy, which was revised a year ago to allow officers to chase drivers suspected of nonviolent felonies such as drug possession and reckless driving.
The department had tightened the policy in 2010 after four bystanders were killed by drivers fleeing police. The policy then stated that officers could not chase for misdemeanor offenses, such as drug possession, or nonviolent felonies, such as burglary.
Morales was unavailable for comment Thursday and Friday, but a police spokeswoman said the reckless driving initiative has resulted in about 2,500 traffic-related citations and the seizure of a significant amount of drugs and illegal money.
“Our priority is to keep the streets of Milwaukee safe,” Sgt. Sheronda Grant said, also noting a 21% drop in fatal crashes.
On June 7, Milwaukee Police Officer Charles Irvine Jr., 23, was killed when the squad he was in crashed on the city’s northwest side during a pursuit of a reckless driver. His partner, Officer Matthew Schulze, was driving and was injured in the rollover crash.
The suspected fleeing driver, Ladell Harrison, 29, has been charged with 11 felonies.
Thousands of bystanders killed, injured
Nationally, from 1979 to 2015, more than 5,000 bystanders and passengers — including Paul Farris — were killed and thousands more injured during police pursuits at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, often for minor infractions, according to an analysis by USA TODAY.
Paul Farris was born in Milwaukee, grew up in Minneapolis and earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, in 2006.
He was thelead singerof an indie rock band called theMark, was working as an insurance adjuster and had just completed law school entrance exams.
“He was an outgoing, active, smart, engaged young man,” his father recalled.
“He had a lot of best friends.”
Early on May 27, 2007, Paul Farris and his girlfriend were in Somerville, Massachusetts, in a taxi driven by Walid Chahine, 45.
Shortly before 1:30 a.m., Javier Morales, then 29, fled a trooper attempting to stop him in nearby Everett for a traffic violation in his Mercury Mountaineer.
Morales led the trooper on a high-speed chase through Everett, Medford and finally Somerville, where his SUV slammed into the taxi, fatally injuring Farris and critically injuring his girlfriend and Chahine.
By Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change.
This Is Not Just Another Day
Every year since my son Paul was killed, on the anniversary of his death, I’ve posted a note. Perhaps on Facebook, at PaulFarris.org, at PursuitForChange.org or some other place for others to read. I suspect I’ll continue this forever.
These stories typically focus on my personal feelings and on the never-ending issue of dangerous non-violent felony police chases.
I can tell you that the anniversary of the death of a child is seared into your brain. It hurts so very much. It tears at your heart and at your soul. It never lets go. But we go on…
Paul was an innocent victim, killed during a police chase after a man running from misdemeanor traffic violation. Because of that I’ve expended years of heartache and energy telling his story to anyone who will listen. Today both Pursuit For Change and Pursuit Response continue efforts by working with law enforcement agencies and legislators. Our goals?
> SAVE LIVES. Innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers
> Reduce the number of misdemeanor and property-crime pursuits
> Develop robust and mandatory Federal tracking for all police pursuit deaths and injuries
> Help law enforcement develop more measured and significantly stricter pursuit policies for their officers
> Share new technologies that will allow for fewer pursuits while still allowing police to catch the bad guys
These goals are simple; making them happen is incredibly difficult. But this effort, too, is part of living our lives in a more meaningful way.
There are deadly #PoliceChase deaths across the world. This is a well done segment by the hosts of The AM Show at Newshub in New Zealand. @NewshubNZ@TheAMShowNZ. Looking for solutions / options and not tossing out blame. #PursuitReductionTech and more driving training WILL help @Pursuit4Change@PursuitResponse
Police not to blame for pursuit deaths – union
Between October 2016 and September last year, seven deaths and 552 crashes were recorded out of around 3600 pursuits.
The Police Association says police aren’t to blame for the deaths of three people in a pursuit that ended in a crash on Sunday.
Around 5:40am, police tried to stop a car in Richmond, south of Nelson. A six-kilometre chase ended in tragedy when the fleeing vehicle crossed the centre line, crashing into a vehicle coming the other way.
“You never overtake on the top of Burke’s Bank because you can’t see what’s on the other side,” Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne told The AM Show on Monday.
Two of the dead were in the fleeing vehicle, the third a member of the public. Police Association president Chris Cahill told The AM Show police can’t be held responsible for the deaths.
“It isn’t the police chasing that’s causing these deaths – it’s the manner of the driving and the people failing to stop. They are the people responsible – not the police officers.”
Det Insp Cahill said the existing rules are “very strict”.
“When a pursuit or fleeing driver incident starts, you immediately have to call through to the communications centre. They take control of the decision-making – you explain the conditions on the road, the speed, the amount of traffic, also that the reason the fleeing driver has taken off in the first place. “The communicator in the comms centre is the decision-maker as to whether that continues or not.
“It takes it away from the police officer in the car who may get tunnel vision, who may have the adrenalin rush going on.”
Police have continually update the comms person on what’s happening. They wouldn’t back a ban on pursuits without “considerable research” first, but doubt it would work.
Det Insp Cahill says Queensland’s restrictive rules on pursuits have resulted in “a lot of young people racing around all over the show, thinking they can get away with it”.
“Do you really think it would be safe just to let people drive on the roads at any speed they want, as drunk as they want, and the police are just going to wave them by? I don’t think the public would let that happen.”
And previous experiments in New Zealand haven’t worked either, he says.
“They started driving the wrong way down the motorway, things like that, ramming into police vehicles, knowing the police would stop. We need to be really careful thinking a ban would be all our answers.”
Det Insp Cahill says penalties need to be increased for drivers who fail to stop.
“If you’re drink driving and you know you’re going to get no further penalty if you fail to stop, what’s the incentive to stop? You need to know if you don’t stop your car is going to be taken… you’re going to face terms of imprisonment.”
Mr Kempthorne says he backs the police, saying the blame lies with those fleeing.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful for any family or friends involved, but we’ve got to be really aware some driver behaviour on the road is really bad.”
Police are currently reviewing their chase policy, which is due to be completed later this year. Police Minister Stuart Nash said he has asked for an update on their progress.
National Party leader Simon Bridges said he’s interested to see the evidence on police chases, and is interested in what other jurisdictions have tried.
“Instinctively, I’m with the police. I don’t think you can have a situation, it would be really bad if they can’t actually make sure that people stop when they’re pursuing them. People should stop,” he told The AM Show.
“If you say police should never do this, what happens then? Does that mean everyone thinks, ‘Well, I’m not stopping. I’m gonna keep on going.'”
The road toll so far this year stands at 77 – nine more than at the same point in 2016, which was a much deadlier year on the roads than 2015.
adminPolice not to blame for pursuit deaths (New Zealand)
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A grand jury has found police chases in Los Angeles are causing “unnecessary bystander injuries and deaths”and recommended police and sheriff’s officers undergo additional training to reduce the likelihood of crashes during pursuits, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Los Angeles County civil grand jury report found three people were killed and 45 people were injured during 421 pursuits in the county from October 2015 until 2016 and concluded that most of the pursuits were not provoked by serious crimes.
The report, citing information from the California Highway Patrol, found that 17 percent of pursuits ended in crashes with the possibility of injuries or death. Sixty-seven percent of the pursuits ended with arrests, the grand jury found.
The grand jury also found that neither Los Angeles police nor sheriff’s officials have policies in place for recurring or continued vehicle pursuit training.
“Police pursuits are inherently dangerous and that is why the Los Angeles Police Department takes every step to develop tactics and mitigate the risk posed by these dangerous interactions,” Los Angeles police spokesman Josh Rubenstein said in a statement. “We are constantly reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure they support what we value the most: the preservation of life.”
The report also criticized the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department’s training facility, saying it was “substandard.” A sheriff’s official said the department is in the process of acquiring a new training center for emergency drivers.
Deputies receive annual training on the department’s pursuit policy and also undergo emergency vehicle training every two years, sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gage said. The sheriff’s department – the largest in the U.S. – has one of the most restrictive pursuit policies in the nation, Gage said.
The policy only allows deputies to pursue drivers for serious felony offenses, confirmed stolen cars or potentially reckless drunken drivers,Gage said. The department’s policy expressly prohibits deputies from chasing someone fleeing after being stopped from an infraction, he said.
“We’re always looking to do better and have more training in this field,” Gage said. “There’s nobody that’s going to say the training is enough for our folks.”
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.
adminGrand Jury: Los Angeles Police Pursuits Cause ‘Unnecessary’ Injuries, Deaths
What a tragic year 2016 was for law enforcement line of duty deaths involving ambush, violent assaults and firearms. Depending on the source that you use, LODDs due to firearms are up a staggering 61 percent to 83 percent over 2015, while overall LODDs are up 12 percent to 18 percent over 2015. It is a reminder that we must all stay alert, plan ahead and keep vigilant with calls involving firearms. It is also a time where we must rise above the media hype, maintain our professionalism and stay the course on reducing “all” LODDs across this country.
When looking at the 2016 LODD statistics, it is notable that we continue to lose officers and deputies in vehicle related incidents. The majority of those losses involve pursuits and emergency response to calls for service. LODD numbers that are identified as “traffic-related” are significant. In 2016, we lost 51 officer/deputies to these incidents (up 11 percent) while we have lost 61 to firearms-related (up 61 percent). In years past, we have lost almost as many, and in some cases more, officer/deputies to the “automobile” incidents than to the “firearm” incidents and yet, our recognition of the safe and tactical operation of the automobile is so much less than that of the firearm? It is a pitfall that many law enforcement officers and deputies, tacticians, and trainers fall prey to our own profession’s hype that officer survival only involves physical conditioning, aggressiveness and a command of firearm skills. But, in fact, a more accurate personal officer survival program should include driving skills, good judgment and decision making skills, as well as mental conditioning and interpersonal skill that include deescalation in all situations.
Let’s talk a bit about the 51 officers and deputies that we lost in 2016 to traffic-related incidents and what we as a profession are doing and training about it?
1. Changes in policy and culture
In the old days, we practiced pursuits on graveyards and nightshifts, where finding a pursuit was like taking a lunch; if you wanted one, you took it. However, today the Chief’s and Sheriff’s, along with community and LE leaders have reduced the number of pursuits and emergency responses through more restrictive policy, law changes and an overall cultural change. There are basically three types of Police Pursuit policies in our country: the threshold policy, the balance test and the zero pursuit policy. All are authored with the best of intentions in mind, however the real question is how is the policy actually followed in practice and is our training applicable to the policy?
2. Shifting focus in training
Don’t take this the wrong way; I do believe it is the right thing to reduce unnecessary pursuits and emergency responses in light of how dangerous they can be. The real question is are we still training proper driving, judgment, decision making, and de-escalation skills required of the pursuits and emergency responses that are still authorized and required of our profession. Look back at the numbers again; the contemporary training focus is on the 61 firearms-related deaths, yet we still lost 51 officers and deputies to “traffic-related” incidents. As trainers, shouldn’t we respect driving as much as we respect shooting!
If we can all agree, much like Below 100 advocates, that driving is a critical survival skill, then let’s move forward and discuss how we are actually training to this end.
3. Driving training isn’t just for beginners
In my experience in training throughout this country, I find a very similar mindset within both administrative and line-personnel regarding driver training: it’s for the basic academy recruit and not necessary for the intermediate or advanced officer or deputy because they drive everyday.
It seems that most agencies only consider driving training after a collision has occurred where-in the officer or deputy has been deemed to be at-fault or in some cases if the collision is considered to be preventable. Even in these remedial cases, the remediation of being sent to a high-speed driving class or local cone course often has nothing to do with the real cause of the collision. For example, an officer or deputy may have been driving too fast for the current road conditions and was unable to stop in time for an unexpected conflict and is then sent to a high speed pursuit driving course.
There is also almost no consideration given for close-calls as they are difficult to document and quite frankly, who is going to call a peer out for driving too fast or passing when it was unsafe or not wearing a seat belt? It’s not like they drove up too close on a hot call or put themselves between lines of fire at a hostage situation or chose not to wait for a back-up when one was available and ended up in a bad situation; or is it?
4. Who is driving complacency?
It is examples like the above where I see complacency towards driving and ask the question: who is driving complacency?
First, are you as an operator of an official authorized emergency vehicle driving complacency by taking your driving for granted, not wearing a seat belt, pushing the speed and most of all, believing that you could stop on a dime at any time?
Second, are you the training officer, Sergeant or Administrator/Chief that is driving complacency by not requiring, providing or encouraging driving training that supports safe operation, good judgment and proper decisions while operating an emergency vehicle? Would you not agree that both groups are driving complacency?
So, the point here is that we should examine what we are training for and how much time we are dedicating to high liability, low frequency training? Are we looking at the facts and numbers to base our decisions on? Have we separated “driving training” too far from force options, judgment, decision-making and de-escalation training? If we’re losing almost as many officers to traffic-related incidents as to firearms-related incidents, shouldn’t our driving training remain a high priority for us?
About the Author
Chuck Deakins is Public Safety Specialist for FAAC. Deakins is a retired officer from Santa Ana (Calif.) whose knowledge of simulator training strategies, tactics, and techniques, has led to his success in all applications of simulation instruction.