Pursuits in the News

Investigators continue to piece deadly chase and crash together

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Investigators continue to piece deadly chase and crash together

Updated: 6:02 PM EST Nov 28, 2016
NORTH VERSAILLES, Pa. —Four days after a police chase ended with three people killed in North Versailles, investigators continue to piece together what led up to the deadly crash.

Surveillance video from a business along Route 30 obtained by Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 shows the suspect’s white car speeding down the road toward Route 48 just minutes before the crash. A North Versailles police cruiser can be seen trailing the car by only a matter of seconds.

Detectives from the Allegheny County Police Department have been working to obtain that video while investigating the incident.

Many have also questioned whether officers should have been pursuing the car. The suspect, Demetrius Coleman, was wanted for felony probation violation related to a drug charge, but not for a violent crime.

North Versailles police have not revealed their policy for initiating or continuing a chase. An officer reached at the department Monday said the chief would not be in until Wednesday.

East McKeesport police chief Russell Stroschein released his agency’s policy early Monday. It limits pursuits to “those situations which involve the attempted apprehension of persons wanted for the commission of felonious acts that threaten, have threatened, or will threaten the health, life, or safety, of a person.”

Jonathan Farris, founder of Pursuit for Change, a group that advocates for changes to police chase policies, said from the information he has seen, he doesn’t believe the North Versailles pursuit was justified.

“There was nothing going on at that point in time that made that person dangerous enough to instigate a pursuit which put other people in danger, and in fact ultimately killed three innocent citizens,” Farris said.

His group recommends that chases be reserved for violent offenders, and that police departments employ better technology to stop fleeing suspects without having to pursue them. Also, he believes police departments should better coordinate their policies to line up with each other.

“They need to have more consistency,” Farris said. “This is really important within a geographic area, because what often happens is there isn’t consistency.”

Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 called every North Versailles township commissioner Monday. No one would speak on camera about the crash or their police department’s policy, but some did say the issue would be a major topic at their next meeting.

The Allegheny County district attorney is also gathering information about the case, and could make a statement on it later this week.

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A Horrible Call

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A Horrible Call

by Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change

It’s a 2016 holiday weekend – Thanksgiving to be exact. And your kids and grandchild will be at your house very soon.

But now it’s an hour after they were supposed to arrive. You’ve called their cell phones, but the calls go straight to voicemail. I wonder where they could be?

For the families of David Lee Bianco and his fiancee Kaylie Meininger and their young daughter, they will scream and cry when they receive ‘the call’ from authorities, telling them their son, their daughter, and their granddaughter are all dead.

The pain is unimaginable. The heartache is unbearable. And the question “WHY?” will be asked over and over and over again.

I wish I could ease their pain, but I cannot. And for these families and their friends, Thanksgiving will forever be a time of sorrow and not celebration.

Over and over and over again this story plays out. Innocent people, simply going about their lives, are killed by someone who decides to flee from law enforcement.

And over and over and over again law enforcement chases. In the case of violent felonies, perhaps there are no other means to catch the perpetrator.

But in the case of non-violent felons, known criminals, or those committing misdemeanor violations such as speeding or an illegal u-turn, there are thousands of pursuits. Some statistics indicate more than 80 percent of police chases are for non-violent actions by the person running.

Are there other means for catching bad guys while not putting citizens at risk? The answer is a resounding YES!

We need more law enforcement agencies to tighten up their pursuit policies – generally limiting chases to all but violent felonies. We need for law enforcement to have significantly more driver training, because unlike weapons training, behind-the-wheel or in-simulator driving simply isn’t practiced enough. And we need law enforcement to begin to use more pursuit reduction technology, allowing them to apprehend criminals without engaging in pursuits that endanger innocent bystanders and the officers themselves. We simply must reduce the thousands and thousands of chases occurring annually.

You may not agree with me, and I get that. But if YOU were the family who received THAT CALL, I suspect your opinion would change.

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/east/2016/11/25/Driver-in-fatal-crash-was-going-more-than-100-mph-officials-say/stories/201611250191?

image from Pittsburg Post-Gazette

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NEVER. STOP. PUSHING.

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MA police department testing GPS darts to deter chases

by: Stephanie Coueignoux, Jason Solowski Updated:

http://www.fox25boston.com/news/mass-police-department-testing-gps-darts-to-deter-police-chases/462545205

BOSTON – There’s a new high tech device that could help cut back on dangerous police pursuits.  It’s called StarChase and one local police department is the first in New England to equip their vehicles with it.

“Nov. 2 will be the 10th birthday of Paul’s we missed because he’s dead. And it really doesn’t change much. You learn to manage it,” Jonathan Farris says.

The pain of losing his son Paul is still as raw as it was the night he died in May 2007 when Paul was 23 years old. That night, Massachusetts State Police were chasing a suspect through Somerville after he made an illegal U-turn.

”They were in a taxi and they were T-boned by the SUV that was running away from the police officer. Paul was actually ripped from the taxi, died there on site,” said Farris, who spoke with us by Skype from his Wisconsin home.

“I hear the chase and I get a pit in my stomach” said Methuen Police Chief Joe Solomon. He told FOX25 that some weeks his officers respond to as many as five chases each day.

Here in Massachusetts each police department has its own chase policy.  In Methuen, officers can only pursue for a serious offense like a robbery or murder.

“God forbid there was a death and particularly with wrong way drivers, it just leads to too much potential injury” said Solomon.

Solomon is now looking to new GPS tracking technology called StarChase as an alternative to high speed chases. The Methuen Police Department is the first agency in New England to use it.

“If someone starts to take off we activate it at a certain point it arms it. It has a laser control on it.  You aim you fire and it shoots a dart out. It attaches to the vehicle wherever you shot it. “ said Solomon.

StarChase is mounted in the grill of the police cruiser. After the dart attaches to the suspects’ vehicle, the officer can back off and track the suspect.  Solomon tells us when police back off, the suspect usually will stop driving erratically.

He says any police agency can then log into their computer and track the vehicle, allowing them to coordinate with other agencies, and create perimeters miles ahead minimizing the need for an actual chase.

“This is just one more tool in our toolbox that hopefully in the right situation and the right time we deploy it, it could save someone’s life.” Solomon said

According to StarChase, the technology has resulted in an 80 percent apprehension rate, that’s compared to a 70 percent national average. The company also says the technology has resulted in no injuries or death.

Methuen Police gave FOX25 a demonstration on a blocked off road. Three times the GPS training dart stuck to the chase vehicle.  Only once did the device fail to stick.  Methuen police said that could be because of weather, proximity, and officer training.

It’s a situation other police departments have encountered. Dash cam video showed a police officer in Duluth, GA trying and failing twice to attach a GPS tracker to a suspect’s car back in 2012.

The officer continued to pursue the suspect driving at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. The suspect switched lanes, crashed into another car, seriously injuring that driver, and killing himself.

Which is why Farris believes an officer’s judgment still needs to be the first line of defense.

“Part of the whole advocacy idea- I want to change policies. I’d like to see stricter policies in play.” He said

Farris says this technology is a step in the right direction, but until every police pursuit policy is improved, he’s promised to keep fighting.

“I’m hoping someday I hear Paul’s voice in my head saying: You done good, dad. And you can take a rest now. I know he’d be proud.” Farris said.

This technology raises questions about the 4th amendment and privacy.

According to the ACLU, it supports this technology so long as the device is used when there is probable cause, and removed once the suspect is caught.

Methuen Police Officers are now going through training on how to use the StarChase technology. Chief Solomon plans on debuting the system to other police departments on Friday for “New England Public Safety Day.”

 

NEVER. STOP. PUSHING. # .  #

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The Tears You Can’t Control

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by Jonathan Farris

I’m not a fan of surprises. Not in business and not in my personal life. But as a dad whose son was killed in 2007, my personal life continues to serve up an endless sea of surprises – often in the form of tears.

It doesn’t matter that Paul died nearly ten years ago. It doesn’t matter that we’ve learned to go about our lives without him. The emotion of suddenly losing a child simply never abates. That emotion may not be quite as close to the surface as immediately following the death, but it is always lurking nearby.

A few days ago, while cleaning around the house, I opened a cabinet and found a box of condolence cards. I wanted to read some of them, but I didn’t make it through the first one before another complete meltdown.

It sucks. It’s not fair. But there aren’t any options other than learning to deal with the tears that you can’t control.

Condolence notesBox of sympathy cards and notes from 2007
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The Never-Talked-About Costs of Police Chases

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Each day we read about many police chases. A huge number of those are to pursue stolen vehicles. 

Chasing a stolen car or truck ALWAYS puts innocent bystanders at risk of injury or death. At Pursuit For Change we talk about that issue all the time. And as a result, we continue to push for stricter pursuit policies allowing chases for only violent-felony crimes and not for misdemeanors or property-related felonies.

Of course, nearly every time an innocent bystander is hurt or killed, that jurisdiction (city, county or state) can expect to be sued. Often the settlements, after years of litigation expenses, are in the millions of dollars. This is yet another reason to pursue only violent felons who are posing an immediate threat to the public prior to and throughout the chase.

However, very few in law enforcement and the media discuss the monetary and social implications of non-injury pursuits.

Much more often when law enforcement chases a stolen vehicle, the bad guy is apprehended after crashing that stolen car or truck. Well  at least there are no “injuries” other than those of the thief, right? 

 Perhaps that’s not really the case.

Every police chase that results in a crash costs the innocent citizen. Yet this is hardly ever talked about. Think about this following scenario.

A thief steals Ms. Goodperson’s 2008 Chevrolet Impala one night. The next morning, when Ms. Goodperson heads out to work, she’s appalled to find that her car is gone! She calls the police and reports the theft.

Several hours later an officer spots her stolen vehicle, driving at the speed limit down a local street. The officer attempts to pull the vehicle over, but instead of stopping, the bad guy speeds away. The officer makes a decision to engage in a high-speed chase.

In this case, after a dangerous pursuit lasting ten minutes and speeding through intersection after intersection, the thief loses control of the car and crashes into a telephone pole. Luckily, no innocent bystanders are hurt.

Now, if Ms. Goodperson is lucky enough to have auto insurance (comprehensive coverage specifically), then she can report the theft to her insurance company and get a settlement for that theft. 

In our example, this 2008 Chevrolet Impala has a retail market value in the $5,000 to $6,000 range. Assuming the vehicle is indeed totaled during this police chase, then Ms. Goodperson can (hopefully) just pay her deductible and the insurance company will be out several thousand dollars.

But what if Ms. Goodperson is more like so many fine, hard-working folks across the country. She struggles to make her family’s financial ends meet every month. So she is regularly forced to make difficult decisions where every single dollar is spent. 

A few months back, Ms. Goodperson spoke with her insurance agent and decided to save some money and drop comprehensive insurance coverage on her eight year old car. This, too, is a very common scenario in the insurance world. 

Because Ms. Goodperson no longer has comprehensive insurance coverage, she immediately becomes a different type of innocent citizen when her car is stolen and crashed during a police chase. Now all expenses related to the stolen car must be born by the owner. 

What does that mean? Well, Ms. Goodperson is about to get a really bad deal. 

  • She has no insurance to cover the replacement of or repairs for her car.
  • It is very unlikely that the thief has any financial assets, so even if Ms. Goodperson receives a legal judgment against him, she will never recover a nickel.
  • She will also have to pay for the replacement of any damaged or missing belongings that were in the stolen car (these may be covered by her renters or homeowners insurance). 
  • Because her car was “recovered”, she will now need to pay for towing or transport to her home or to a repair shop. (Here is a real-life case where the owner is being forced pay to transport her stolen vehicle from Oklahoma to Minnesota. goo.gl/FWjeMz)
  • Law enforcement is typically not liable for any damages to a pursued vehicle.
  • Between the time Ms. Goodperson’s car is stolen until she is able to repair or replace it, she still needs to get to and from work. Those expenses must ultimately be paid for by the victim.
    • If she is unable to find alternative transportation, then there is a very real possibility that Ms. Goodperson could even lose her job.
The bottom line is that many stolen car police chases end up in crashes costing the victims an immense amount of time and untold aggravation. Plus, the victim and / or an insurance company, will be out thousands and thousands of dollars. Bad deal.
 
We know there are alternatives to chasing stolen vehicles, such as pursuit reduction technology. That seems like a much smarter investment for a city than having to settle a lawsuit from a pursuit gone bad or for adding truly unnecessary expenses to non-injured vehicle theft victims.
 
There are always losers and never winners for these types of pursuits. 
 
Jonathan Farris is chief advocate for Pursuit For Change and also president of Madison-based InsuranceRescue Services. He can be reached at jon@pursuitforchange.org or jon@insurancerescue.com.
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Police chase deaths up in 2014

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by Tom Frank, USA Today. 12/28/2015
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/12/23/police-chase-deaths-up-in-2014/77762174/

Police chase deaths up in 2014

DEATHS *385
Bystanders73
Passengers77
Total Bystanders150
Bystander under age 1212
Police Officers5
INJURIES *1764

 

The number of people killed in high-speed police chases surged in 2014 to its highest level since 2007 despite efforts by police departments to reduce the risks of people getting killed and injured, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

A total of 385 people died in motor-vehicle crashes in 2014 that occurred while police were chasing a vehicle, up 16% from the 333 people killed in 2013, the USA TODAY review of federal records shows.

“A huge percentage of these deaths are unnecessary,” said Jonathan Farris, former chairman of PursuitSAFETY, which advocates to restrict police chases and improve reporting of chase-related deaths and injuries. Farris’ son Paul, 23, was killed in 2007 near Boston by a motorist being chased for a traffic violation.

Approximately 73 of the people killed in 2014 were bystanders — mostly people in their own cars that were hit by a fleeing motorist — and 77 were passengers in the fleeing vehicles. Twelve of those killed were children age 14 or younger, including an infant who had not yet turned one. Five were police officers.

Thousands more people were injured in the chases, which usually begin for minor infractions such as traffic violations. Although the federal government does not count injuries in police chases, five states that do keep track reported that a combined total of 1,764 people were injured in 2014 in their states.

Those states — California, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — make up nearly 23% of the U.S. population, which suggests that more than 7,700 people may have been injured nationwide in police chases in 2014.

Records from those states also suggest that there were about 52,000 police chases in 2014.

 

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Too Little, Too Late?

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Tullahoma Mayor Calls for Change After Second High Speed Chase Ends in Death

 

COFFEE COUNTY, Tenn. — The mayor of Tullahoma is calling for change after a Coffee County high-speed chase ends in tragedy for the second time in the last month. This time, the crash took the life of a beloved City employee.

“It’s absolutely not acceptable,” said Tullahoma Mayor Lane Curlee.

The mayor is calling out the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department for flying through his town at speeds of 90 miles an hour, “To pursue an individual or vehicle at that rate of speed through a community, there’s really got to be a really powerful reason.”

The sheriff says the reason was that a driver had a busted license plate light and the passenger acted suspicious, hiding from view from a deputy. The license plate violation gave the deputy cause to pursue Driver Kayla Hickey and Passenger Charleston Ortega. The chase ended-up taking the life of Joe Moon, a friend and colleague of the mayor for 40 years.

“I mean enough is enough! It ain’t been two weeks and we’ve got another death,” Mildred Parker, mother of Jessica Campos, the woman who died in the last high-speed chase.

Just weeks ago, Coffee County deputies chased a man who stole a car from a funeral home and that chase also ended in crash that took the life of Jessica Campos, a mother of two young children.

“Her kids, her 7 year old son is crying for her every night,” said Parker. “I mean when is it going to stop?”

Just this week, Campos’ family filed a $10 million lawsuit against the sheriff’s department for the chase that they felt was unjustified.

The sheriff says his investigation found nothing wrong. According to its pursuit policy, a deputy can chase if there’s the possibility of loss of life, serious injury or major property damage.

“What is your reaction to this happening twice now in the last few weeks?” asked Reporter Sabrina Hall.

“Criminals ought to stop,” said Craig Northcott, the Coffee County District Attorney.

The district attorney backs up the sheriff’s department and says he’d only prosecute if a deputy committed a crime.

In pursuits, the Coffee County Sheriff’s department investigates itself on whether a deputy followed protocol when it comes to a high-speed chase.

The Tullahoma mayor and Campos’ family are calling for change.

“They are already are asking questions,” said Mayor Curlee. “What can be done?”

“It’s got to stop,” said Parker.

The 21-year-old driver, Hickey, who fled from deputies is locked-up at the Coffee County Jail. The DA says he plans to hold her and her passenger, Ortega, accountable for the loss of life.

Original article: http://fox17.com/news/local/tullahoma-mayor-calls-for-change-after-second-high-speed-chase-ends-in-death

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NBC 5 Chicago Investigates – Part 2

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To Curb Deaths, Some Police Make the Choice Not to Chase

Ingrained in every law enforcement officer are a few basic tenets: serve and protect, and catch evildoers before they can do more harm. It’s what they are paid to do, often risking their lives to accomplish those two goals.

But some departments are taking the drastic step of telling their officers to actually let the bad guy get away. That’s because in many circumstances, chasing them is simply too dangerous.

“The threat to innocent life does not justify chasing the vast majority of cars that decide not to stop for police,” says Edward Flynn, Chief of Police in Milwaukee. Six years ago, after a series of high profile crashes relating to chases, Flynn decided enough was enough, and implemented a new policy. Starting in March of 2010, officers were ordered to commence pursuits only for violent offenses.

No traffic violations. No stolen cars.

“In a three month period in 2010, we had four innocent people killed in three accidents,” Flynn said. “In every one of these tragedies the officers had realized the recklessness of the person they were chasing didn’t justify continued pursuit. One was for a stolen license plate!”

But once that pursuit begins, he noted, there is no controlling the missile which is often launched through populated neighborhoods, or streets, in the form of a fleeing car. And even if police break off the pursuit, they can’t control what the fleeing driver does next.

“I mean, I’ve buried officers who were killed in pursuits, alright?” he noted. “If you’re going to risk your life, and run the risk of that person is going to kill an innocent person, then the standard….has got to be a standard that says we’re involved in a crime of violence here. Not simply a property crime or a traffic offense, or some other low level offense.”

The new policy appears to have made a difference in Milwaukee. From 103 pursuit related crashes in 2007, to just 39 last year.

In May, NBC5 Investigates reported the alarming number of fatalities from police pursuits in the Chicagoland area: 141 pursuit-related crashes in the last ten years, resulting in 108 fatalities, and another 216 injured.

But the cases are not always easily defined.

In 2014, 20 year old Freddie Morales was walking to his car, when he was struck and killed by a Wheeling squad car, running with no lights or siren, clocked at up to 109 miles per hour. The officer who hit Morales, argued he was attempting to catch up with a speeder, and had not turned on his lights to avoid triggering a scenario where that driver might flee.

Morales, a pedestrian, was determined to have a blood alcohol level of between .158 and .228. He was killed instantly, and recently, the Village of Wheeling paid out a settlement to his family, of $853,000.

Ironically, under new chief James Dunne, Wheeling’s policy is now remarkably similar to Milwaukee’s. Dunne maintains the officer in the Morales case, who he called an “exemplary” member of his department, was truly only trying to catch up with a speeder, and was not engaged in a real chase. But like Flynn, he said he is concerned about the inherent dangers of police pursuits.

“Our policy is we won’t pursue for property crimes, or traffic,” he said. “It has to be a forcible felony.”

The true metric of any such policy, or course, is a reduction in injuries or deaths. In Milwaukee, two innocent bystanders have been killed since Flynn implemented his stricter policy. Chicago allows chases more often, and here we’ve seen 12 bystanders killed during the same period.

“As an industry, we need to re-evaluate how often we engage in this behavior,” he said. “And if the apprehension, is worth death!”

Published at 11:01 PM CDT on Jul 5, 2016

Original article at http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/To-Curb-Deaths-Some-Police-Make-the-Choice-Not-to-Chase-385643481.html

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Advocates working to change police pursuit policies (WSMV)

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Advocates working to change police pursuit policies

Posted: Jun 30, 2016 9:29 PM CDT
Reported by Heather Hourigan

Original article at: http://www.wsmv.com/clip/12564582/advocates-working-to-change-police-pursuit-policies

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) –Thousands of bystanders and passengers have been killed since the 1980s in high-speed police chases.

One of those happened last week in Murfreesboro when a mother of two was killed instantly when the suspect rammed into her car.

Now her family is wanting to know why her life was taken for a stolen car.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police conducted a survey on thousands of chases nationally. They found 92 percent of pursuits began for a traffic violation, misdemeanor or non-violent felonies.

“I got involved in this in 2007 when my son was killed. I was boggled. I just couldn’t believe the number of them,” said Jonathan Farris, the founder of Pursuit for Change.

It often takes tragedy to bring to light the dangers of high-speed police chases.

“This should have never happened. This right here should have never happened,” said Mildred Parker, Jessica Campos’ mother.

Campos was killed in Murfreesboro when a suspect hit her after a more than 30-mile chase over a stolen car.

“It’s that cross jurisdictional issue,  but someone gave me the number and it’s close to 19,000 law enforcement agencies, and they all have different policies,” Farris said.

Farris lost his son, Paul, in a city that has essentially a no pursuit policy, but the pursuit began in another county.

“My son and his girlfriend were in the backseat of a taxi. That taxi came to the intersection and the perpetrator was in an SUV and just t-boned them. Literally lifted the taxi up and threw it onto a sidewalk,” Farris said.

The chase started over an illegal U-turn.

“That’s when I lost it and decided I need to figure out why this is happening, how it’s happening, and so that’s when I started tracking pursuits,” Farris said.

He found that they are happening too often and for non-violent crimes.

Farris is working for federal regulations making pursuit policies consistent and for violent felonies only.

“No one has done anything with high-speed pursuits for the last 20 years,” said Trevor Fischbach, president of StarChase.

Fischbach is working to develop technology so police don’t have to chase at all.

“It’s mounted to the patrol car,” he said.

It may look like an Inspector Gadget car, but StarChase allows police officers to launch a GPS device onto a suspect’s car.

Statistic show it works, allowing police to track the suspects without having to use high speeds and putting others’ lives at risk. However, it does come with a price tag.

“Today we hear these stories and some are obviously much more tragic than others and this is definitely a tragic one. That is why we are working so hard to provide this technology to agencies,” Fischbach said.

Right now about 100 police agencies are using StarChase, none in Tennessee.

To get involved with Pursuit for Change, click here to visit their website. There is also a petition to help get new legislation enacted.

Copyright 2016 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Toyota Prius Commercial Update – June 28, 2016

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By Jonathan Farris

We were previously told by Toyota USA officials that the final run of Prius police chase advertising would end on June 26, 2016. However, on June 27th several Pursuit For Change followers indicated they saw the commercials again.

I immediately contacted the Toyota USA executive with whom I have been dealing. Here is his update to me, as of June 28, 2016.

I was able to discover the confusion today with our media team. In my previous communications I have asked them about the broadcast flights that support the Prius campaign. This information is what I have shared.

Today I learned that we have evergreen media sponsorships with a few media outlets like ESPN Sports Nation and CBS This Morning. The frequency and weight of these spots is minimal, but they obviously get noticed. The media team doesn’t consider these part of the campaign flight so I didn’t ask the questions as specific as I should have.

I apologize for this confusion.

Based on this new information we have made arrangements to replace the Prius work in these rotations this week. Saturday July 2nd is the final day that any of the spots will show up. We also reviewed other digital video units and those too will be on the same timing.

Again, I’m sorry for the seemingly misleading comments I have given you. This has been a new experience for me to handle and it’s now clear that I simply didn’t ask our media team enough questions about the different ways our media is placed. It’s not as clear cut as simply the broadcast work. It was never my intent to mislead you or your supporters in any way.

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Message to Toyota: Police Pursuits Are No Joke

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Opinion Article

Suppose you’re a homeowner who has watched your neighborhood deteriorate since drug dealers moved in. The drug traffic has disturbed your peace, destroyed the lives of friends, and threatened your security.

Then suppose you turn on the TV and see a commercial for a product considered socially responsible: a low water-use toilet. The manufacturer, worried that customers think its flushing power ineffectual, has devised a new “humorous” ad. It depicts a panicked drug dealer reacting to police pounding on his door by running to the bathroom with a bag of cocaine. The camera cuts to police ramming the entry, then back to the dealer, calmly munching corn chips. The ad’s caption: “No Matter the Rush, It’s Gone in One Flush!”

No advertising company would propose such an ad, and no manufacturer would buy it. It would outrage the law-abiding public and law enforcement at all levels.

Yet for months Toyota has run a series of ads that strike both police and the family members of one group of crime victims as just this outrageous. The first spot aired during the Super Bowl.

A group of bank robbers, finding their getaway car has been towed, steal a Prius. They elude police, driving for miles at high speeds. Meanwhile, citizens tweet the thieves’ exploits and hang out banners to cheer them on as they speed by. The chase goes on endlessly, without even near-miss collisions, as if pursuits always unrolled in the sedate manner of the slow-motion chase of O. J. Simpson on highways that had been cleared of most other traffic.

In real life, police pursuits can quickly turn deadly. An FBI study found that about half of all pursuits last less than two minutes, and 70% end within six minutes — usually in a crash. Sometimes the fleeing driver slams into a wall, injuring or killing only himself. But too often he slams into another, innocent driver.

Records kept by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since 1979 show that about one person a day dies in a pursuit-related crash and that over one-third of those killed are innocent bystanders. The real number of pursuit-related deaths is probably higher.

USA Today investigators who tabulated media-reported pursuits found that the NHTSA undercounted chase-related deaths in 2013 by at least 31%. One reason: accident report forms often don’t ask whether a pursuit preceded a crash.

Researchers for the International Association of Chiefs of Police reported in 2008 that over 91% of vehicular pursuits are triggered by non-violent crimes, and that in over 42% of cases, police pursue for minor traffic violations.

Patrol officers see small infractions as clues to larger crimes — and a suspect’s refusal to stop seems an admission of guilt. It is true that police frequently discover, after the crash, that a suspect was driving a stolen vehicle. But by then the stolen property is irrecoverable.

You can replace a ruined car, but you cannot replace the life of an innocent bystander victim. That’s why the national nonprofit PursuitSAFETY urges law enforcement to pursue only violent felony suspects. It also urges law enforcement to train officers to use safe practices in situations that often trigger pursuits. Another organization, Pursuit For Change, pushes these reforms while promoting new technologies that could help officers apprehend suspects without the dangerous chase.

Both groups have asked Toyota to pull the offensive Prius ads. Toyota has responded with tone-deaf excuses.

Toyota Operations Supervisor Nicole Redd’s response to a letter from PursuitSAFETY volunteer Patti DeAngelis (whose daughter died last September due to a pursuit in San Joaquin County, California) is typical. “We are sorry you did not enjoy our . . . commercial. Our intention was to focus on the typical misconceptions about hybrids . . . in a fun and humorous way.” In other words, “That was a joke! Didn’t you get it?”

The American public doesn’t get it. We regard vehicular flight and pursuit with too much fascination and too little alarm. We thrill to movie depictions of impossible chases. The camera sweeps past fiery crashes and crumpled vehicles, never showing us the human cost. Reckless scofflaws conclude that you can flee police and get away, while the rest of us don’t suspect we could be victims — until it happens to someone we love.

Free-lance writer and editor Ellen Deitz Tucker began advocating reforms to police pursuit policy after her sister and a friend were killed by a fleeing driver in Belmont, NC in 2012.

adminMessage to Toyota: Police Pursuits Are No Joke
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Our View: City, county should have common police chase policy

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Thanks to the Rockford Register for this editorial. They make very good recommendations regarding more commonality of different departments’ pursuit policies. If lives are truly to be saved, then move to a policy allowing pursuits for only violent felonies. And support local law enforcement with additional driving training and the ability to try new pursuit reduction technologies.
Jon Farris – Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change


Photo credit: Illinois State Police work the scene of a fatal accident Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, on South Springfield Avenue at Cunningham Road in Rockford.  RRSTAR.COM FILE PHOTO


Original post: http://www.rrstar.com/opinion/20160612/our-view-city-county-should-have-common-police-chase-policy

We’ve been critical of the Rockford Police Department’s “no chase” policy in the past. That’s why we are pleased that new Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea has changed the department’s policy to one that’s reasonable and gives officers the authority to decide when and when not to chase, based on several criteria.

In a meeting with the Editorial Board last week, O’Shea said Rockford police will chase violent offenders who are considered an imminent threat to others, based on traffic conditions, the time of day and the presence of pedestrians. If an officer is shot, the police definitely will chase if at all possible.

Meanwhile, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department continues its “pedal to the metal” policy. Last week, a sheriff’s deputy went on a high-speed chase, at one point reaching 100 mph, to pursue someone because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt and the deputy thought he saw the driver of the Chevy Tahoe reaching down under the seat to maybe hide something. This was at 10:24 p.m., in the darkness of night.

The deputy tried to pursue the car, but it sped away. The chase led from southeast Rockford to Illinois 251 to Perryville Road, where the Tahoe was traveling in the wrong lane. The deputy stopped chasing at that point.

This is the latest in a series of high-speed chases by the Sheriff’s Department, one of which ended in the death of Joy Lambert, 55, who was on her way to work at BMO Harris Bank. The deputy didn’t hit her, but the car he was chasing at a high speed on Springfield Avenue did.

Another sheriff’s chase ended up with the chased car wrecked on the sidewalk directly in front of Rockford City Hall.

None of those chases involved suspects who were immediate threats to public safety.

We’ve applauded Sheriff Gary Caruana for his efforts to beef up crime fighting throughout the county with an emphasis on high-crime areas. But we think the sheriff’s chase policy should be rethought, with greater emphasis put on the safety of innocent bystanders and the officers.

In fact, we urge the city and county to adopt a common policy and training regimen to ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows the same driving techniques. Throw in the Rockford Park District, Loves Park Police and rural village departments, too.

There is no question that police chases are inherently dangerous to the public.

A USA Today analysis published in 2015 found that “More than 5,000 bystanders and passengers have been killed in police car chases since 1979, and tens of thousands more were injured as officers repeatedly pursued drivers at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, often for minor infractions. … Police across the USA chase tens of thousands of people each year, often causing drivers to speed away recklessly.”

The International Association of Chiefs of Police, based in Alexandria, Virginia, has a model “vehicular pursuit policy,” updated in 2015, on its website, theiacp.org. We have read it, and it seems logical and reasonable to us civilians.

Here are the first three guidelines:

1. Pursuit is authorized 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.

2. The decision to initiate a pursuit must be based on the pursuing officer’s conclusion that the immediate danger to the officer and the public created by the pursuit is less than the immediate or potential danger to the public should the suspect remain at large.

3. Unless a greater hazard would result, a pursuit should not be undertaken if the subject(s) can be identified with enough certainty that they can be apprehended at a later time.

The entire policy is online in convenient PDF form. It reads plainly and is very similar to the guidelines O’Shea described.

We recommend all police agencies follow it, so they’re all on the same page when we’re all on the same roads.

adminOur View: City, county should have common police chase policy
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Police Pursuit, Maple Lake 5-Vehicle Crash Might Have Involved Medical Situation

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http://kstp.com/news/maple-lake-5-vehicle-crash-police-pursuit/4164630/ 

Written by Dave Aeikens
Updated: 06/10/2016 9:37 AM

Photo credit: KSTP / Will Greiner

The investigation continues into a police pursuit and multi-vehicle crash that injured at least four people Tuesday near Maple Lake.

Authorities are trying to determine what happened and whether the driver was suffering from a medical incident or had criminal intent.

The Minnesota State Patrol said 73-year-old Barbara Belka of Rockville was seriously injured in the crash. She attracted the attention of police after a guard rail was damaged in South Haven. When Annandale Police and Wright County deputies tried to stop Belka, she continued. The pursuit was called off near Maple Lake and Belka’s car caused a crash with four other vehicles on Minnesota Highway 55 near Maple Lake, the state patrol said.

“We don’t know if this is a medical or criminal situation,” said Capt. Todd Hoffman of the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.

Belka has not been arrested, Hoffman said.

Hoffman would not say how fast the driver was going when law enforcement ended the pursuit. It’s about seven miles between South Haven and Maple Lake.

The patrol said Belka was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Four other vehicles and at least three others were hurt, the patrol said.

The patrol said 55-year-old Steven Voight of St. Cloud, 20-year-old Mark Borer of Annandale and 39-year-old Wayne Paler of Annandale were taken to St. Cloud Hospital with injuries that are not life threatening.

The state patrol has not released the details of the crash.

adminPolice Pursuit, Maple Lake 5-Vehicle Crash Might Have Involved Medical Situation
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FOX25 Investigates: Massachusetts State Police logged 900 pursuits in 5 years

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VIDEO here:
http://www.myfoxboston.com/news/fox25-investigates-state-police-logged-900-pursuits-in-5-years/318809260

Very special thanks to Fox25 Investigative Producer, Erin Smith (@SmithReports), for reaching out and making this story happen.

Thursday, June 2, 2016. Fox25 News.
Troopers on police pursuits have racked up 132 crashes involving cruisers and other vehicles since 2012, FOX25 Investigates uncovered.

State Police have logged 917 total chases in the past five years. A spokesman for State Police said 843 of those pursuits complied with the agency’s pursuit policy, which requires cops to end the chase if the driver is only wanted for a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony and heads into densely populated neighborhoods or congested roadways. Troopers must also frequently check in with supervisors to continue the chase.

State Police defended their record, telling FOX25 Investigates the department closely examines each pursuit.

“The fact that the overwhelming majority of pursuits comply entirely with policy reflects the discipline of our troopers in deciding when to pursue vehicles,” said State Police in a statement.

The staggering number of State Police pursuits uncovered by FOX25 Investigates comes after Massachusetts State Police last month pursuing a driver on an hour-long, multi-state chase gunned down major roads, including Route 2 and I-495 and arrested him in a New Hampshire residential neighborhood.

>>READ MORE: Full State Police pursuit policy

A New Hampshire state trooper and a Massachusetts State Police officer were later placed on leave and are under investigation after SkyFox video showed officers punching the suspect at the end of the chase.

Deadly 2007 pursuit leads to policy review
Massachusetts State Police revised their pursuit policy in 2007 after a deadly Somerville crash. Javier Morales fled a routine traffic stop for an illegal U-turn in Everett and led police on a high-speed chase before smashing into a taxicab in Somerville, killing cab driver Walid Chahine and 23-year-old musician Paul Farris. Farris’ girlfriend Katelyn Hoyt was also seriously injured.

Hoyt spoke to FOX25 Investigates for the first time publicly about the life-changing crash that left her sedated in a coma with a shattered pelvis, a broken right wrist, a cracked sternum, broken ribs and a traumatic brain injury.

“I’m not mad at the police and I’m glad laws have changed and I’m glad we’re still fighting to change more laws about police chases,” said Hoyt. “But I really wish that there was more awareness. There’s so many innocent bystanders… You’re going to get another shot at this convict or this criminal, so just let it go and you’ll get him later.”

Hoyt said the recent New Hampshire chase was difficult to watch and urged police to rethink pursuits – for the safety of the officers as well as bystanders.

“Every time I hear a siren… I say a little prayer,” said Hoyt. “Please be with the officers. Please be with the people, the paramedics, the victims. Anyone who’s involved.”

After Hoyt’s crash, State Police ordered an internal committee to review all pursuits.

11 recent pursuits did not follow policy

In the past two years alone, internal reviews found 11 chases didn’t comply with State Police’s own pursuit policy.

“It certainly calls into question whether or not police ought to be involved and engaging in high-speed vehicle pursuits in the first place,” said Tom Nolan, a Merrimack College professor and retired 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department.

Nolan said the way officers handled the end of the chase in New Hampshire shouldn’t be the only thing under investigation.

“They knew who this guy was,” said Nolan. “They knew where he lived. They had warrants outstanding for him. You can get him another time. I mean, what is the emergency?”

State Police couldn’t immediately provide details for the 11 chases that didn’t comply with policy and declined an interview request, but a spokesman said the violations were minor and no troopers were fired.

Last month’s chase that ended in New Hampshire is still under internal review and State Police said investigators are still compiling radio transmissions from the pursuit.

The full statement from State Police to FOX25 Investigates states:

“Pursuits require continual analysis of a host of evolving factors, any of which can change in a split second over the course of a pursuit — including speed, traffic conditions, population density of the surrounding area, the nature of the underlying crime committed by the suspect, and the threat posed to the public by the suspect. This rapid-fire analysis and continual decision-making by the pursuing troopers and the shift commander at troop headquarters determine whether the pursuit continues or is terminated. Like so many other actions that we ask law enforcement officers to perform routinely to protect the public, motor vehicle pursuits require a tremendous amount of tactical skill, discipline, and clear thinking in the midst of a crisis situation. It is easy for observers on the outside to second guess those actions, but the task of the trooper or police officer who has to stop a potentially dangerous suspect and end a threat is not quite so easy.
We are proud of our rigorous pursuit policy and our record of closely examining how our pursuits are conducted. The fact that the overwhelming majority of pursuits comply entirely with policy reflects the discipline of our troopers in deciding when to pursue vehicles.”

adminFOX25 Investigates: Massachusetts State Police logged 900 pursuits in 5 years
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CBN: Stop the Chase – How new technology can prevent deadly police pursuits

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http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2016/april/stop-the-chase-how-new-technology-can-prevent-deadly-police-pursuits

Rockdale County, GA — Have you ever found yourself caught in the middle of a high speed police chase?
Though they may be entertaining to watch on television, police pursuits often end in violent collisions that kill or injure thousands of innocent bystanders and police officers each year.

Now, a new technology could change the way officers go after suspects and prevent these risky chases from ever occurring.

These accidents are a leading cause of injury, death, and lawsuits involving police officers, and can cost taxpayers an average of $3 million. But officers aren’t the only ones at risk during a high speed chase.

High Speed Chase Is Not Entertainment

Sheriff Eric Levett, in Rockdale County, Georgia, says anyone can be a victim of a police pursuit.

“With chasing, anybody can pull out in front of you, your breaks can fail, there’s a lot of different things that can cause some type of danger to the deputy and or the community,” he explained.

Jon Farris learned the hard way that in a matter of seconds, anyone can be a victim. His 23-year-old son Paul was on his way home in a cab when a vehicle pursued by police crashed into him at more than 70 miles per hour.

The state trooper went after the driver for making an illegal U-turn, despite the city’s no pursuit policy for any crime other than violent felonies. The officer faced no reprimand because according to state police rules, he was within his right to pursue.

An overwhelming number of police pursuits are started over non-violent crimes and escalate quickly, endangering the suspect, the policeman, and any bystanders along the way.

“Two or three seconds earlier, two or three seconds later than the timing of that pursuit and my son would be alive, so it’s just random,” Farris said. “I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t know what to do after Paul died, so I started researching police pursuits.”

He found on average that one person dies each day as the result of a police pursuit, a third of those deaths being innocent bystanders.

An FBI report uncovered that the true cost is probably two to three times higher than the stated average because pursuit fatalities are only reported at the discretion of law enforcement.

No government agencies track injuries from pursuits, leaving no information on police officers and bystanders paralyzed, brain damaged, or suffering from other life altering injuries.

How It Works

In order to cut down on high pursuit casualties, authorities like Sheriff Levett are investing in new technology known as Star Chase.

“I know that this technology has been a great investment, from the times we’ve launched this GPS tracking unit we have had a successful capture rate,” Levett said.

Star Chase allows officers to deploy a tracking device on vehicles without the driver knowing they’ve been tagged. For about $5000 per vehicle, officers can secretly but safely catch cars on the run.

Officers can deploy the tracker while they are behind a car they are pursuing or from outside their vehicle if a car they pulled over decides to flee. Drivers cannot feel the tracker hitting their car, so they do not know they’ve been tagged.

As the suspect thinks he is no longer being pursued, the officers begin their stealth pursuit, pulling up a map of the suspect’s location and alerting fellow law enforcement where the car is heading.

In most cases the suspects slow down to safer speeds because without the police car following them, they think they have gotten away, letting fellow drivers and bystanders avoid being in the middle of a high speed pursuit.

“When you can launch something and you can track it, you can discontinue the chase and just begin tracking the vehicle. You can apprehend the vehicle and or the suspect later,” Levett said.

So far, only a handful of Rockdale patrol cars have Star Chase, but Levett wants to invest in more Star Chase vehicles because of its success rate.

‘No Injuries’ with Star Chase

“We’ve captured everyone from the ones that we’ve launched,” Levett said. “No injuries to the deputy and no injuries to the community or citizens.”

Most departments rely on decades old tire spikes to stop chases, but even they are rarely used because of the danger involved. Police must also know where cars are heading.

One Rockdale County Police Officer explained the potential dangers to the officer when deploying spike strips.

“Trying to deploy stop sticks sometimes is very dangerous, especially if you put them out and the car swerves toward you, I’ve seen several videos of officers getting struck trying to deploy spike strips,” the officer said.

Levett admits new technology can be expensive, but he says it’s nothing compared to the cost of chases gone wrong.

“When you talk about the fees, the car is possibly going to be totaled, but the deputy was also life lighted to a nearby hospital,” he said. “So your incurring the fees of you know, air ambulance, your incurring the fees of him being hospitalized, and then aftercare where he’s going to go to therapy or just going to the doctor.”

“And not only that, the agency is losing a man or a woman that is down for weeks,” he added.

Levett says providing officers the right tools protects their safety as well as the citizens.

“Behind the badges of those who put on this uniform are humans,” Levett said. “They walk out the doors kissing their loved ones, telling them that they love them not knowing if they’re ever going to return back to the house again because they are leaving that home to protect and serve the people of their city, their county and this great state.”

“I want the people to know that we’re out here doing the best that we can, and all we want to do is protect and serve you,” he said.

Since his son’s death, Farris has worked hard to raise awareness of this issue on a national level. He started an advocacy group called Pursuit for Change, which encourages lawmakers to dedicate funding for increased pursuit safety and training,

The group also wants mandatory reporting for all police pursuits and rethinking of the current pursuit policies in hopes of preventing more unnecessary lives lost, like his son Paul’s.

“If we can get changes that will save a life a day, that’s a pretty big deal,” Farris said.

**Help Jon Farris in his efforts to prevent unnecessary police pursuits by signing his Change.org petition here**

Reposted from CBN News

adminCBN: Stop the Chase – How new technology can prevent deadly police pursuits
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Toyota Prius Police Chase Advertising Update

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On May 27, 2016 Jon Farris met with Toyota USA executives to discuss the Prius police chase advertising campaign. Although we’ll have more updates soon, here are two important points that came from the meeting:

  1. All Prius police chase ads will cease by June 20th
  2. The Toyota team has committed to not use police chases in any future ad campaigns

I want to thank these executives for a very respectful and productive meeting.

 

adminToyota Prius Police Chase Advertising Update
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Misdemeanor Violation Police Chase Injures Innocent Bystanders

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So unnecessary. This really needs to stop.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:
http://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/three-hospitalized-when-high-speed-chase-ends-in-two-car/article_2feafee4-2298-11e6-95be-f375e1223eb3.html

Three hospitalized when high-speed chase ends in two-car crash in south Columbia

COLUMBIA — A high-speed chase that began on Interstate 70 near Midway on Wednesday morning resulted in a two-car crash near Providence Road and Nifong Boulevard and ended in the arrest of a Macon man.

The chase began when a Missouri State Highway Patrol airplane pilot witnessed a green Chevrolet pickup speeding east past the 120-mile marker on I-70. Troopers tried to stop the driver — later identified as 24-year-old Michael C. Wills — but he sped away, leading them east on a chase.

Wills exited at Midway, traveled south on Route UU, reached Route K and went back through the Columbia city limits. The highway patrol was assisted during the pursuit by the Columbia Police Department and the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

Law enforcement attempted to set up spikes to stop Wills at Route K and Providence Road, but the vehicle avoided the spikes and continued driving northbound, eventually crossing into the southbound lanes. The truck then struck a black Acura that was traveling southbound on Providence.

“(Wills) was driving very aggressively before that,” said Highway Patrol Corporal Scott Ballard.

Candice Ward, 27, of Moberly was also in the Chevrolet. Cory Via, 25, of Columbia was driving the Acura. Ward was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, but Wills and Via were not. Both vehicles were totaled.

The three individuals’ injuries were described as moderate to serious. All were taken to University Hospital.

Willis was arrested Wednesday on the following charges:

  • felony resisting arrest
  • two charges of felony assault in the second degree
  • tampering with physical evidence
  • speeding
  • possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana
  • unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia
  • driving while driver’s license is revoked
  • no seat belt
  • no insurance
  • driving in the wrong direction on a divided highway

The speed of the vehicles at the time of the crash is unknown. The investigation is ongoing.

Supervising editor is William Schmitt.

adminMisdemeanor Violation Police Chase Injures Innocent Bystanders
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Nine Years. Celebrating Paul Farris With Music

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May 27, 2016 is the 9th anniversary of Paul’s death. I usually write a short blog focusing on Paul and how his death impacted so many people – especially Roberta, Scott and me.

But this year I’d like to try something different.

For those of you who knew Paul personally, he was passionate about music. He began listening to mom and dad’s favorite bands and artists at a very young age. As he got older he began to sing and perform, first in school choirs and then in bands and by himself. Most of the music  recorded by Paul and the bands Paul was in is now housed at our memorial site (http://www.paulfarris.org). Many of the bands I still listen to today came to me via Paul.

So, back to this nine year anniversary. I  wonder what musical genres, bands and singers Paul would be listening to today if he were here with us?  

To you, his friends and acquaintances, how about participating in an experiment and sharing your thoughts and song selection(s) with me at Jon@PaulFarris.org or Jon@PursuitForChange.org.  I’ll collect everyone’s songs and publish a list with links to the songs (or videos).

Thanks!

Here are a few I think he might have discovered and sent to me…
> Niamh by KieTheVez: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4r6zSprfSQ
> Adrift by Lunatic Soul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJrb4uFITWU
> Senza Tempo by Paul Cusick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mp83pbz_03k
> Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire by Riverside: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHU-LeDpR14

Some photos of Paul and theMark bandmates:

Paul & theMark1 boston 018 theMark 09292003 tshirt2 mark_header2 Brown University concert Tuft's choir - Paul Farris Paul singing Spring Fling (Tufts) theMark group_052004a-1(2) theMark tourbackground theMark IMG_0166 theMark BU Battle 3 theMark IMG_1482 Alec & Paul DSC00937 theMark Picture 012 theMark  PaultheMark DSCF0028 theMark theMark 02112006_renamed_8447 Paul 2003 guitar-sing Paul Farris - theMark 1

 

adminNine Years. Celebrating Paul Farris With Music
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COMMERCE, JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 2017

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Pursuit For Change is making headway!  

Mr. CULBERSON, from the House Committee on Appropriations, submitted the following REPORT.

The Committee on Appropriations submits the following report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, and for other purposes.

The Committee encourages the Bureau of Justice Statistics to develop a data collection process to accurately capture the number of deaths and injuries from police pursuits and high-risk vehicle events. 

The Committee notes that Byrne/JAG funding can be used for pursuit technology and training to reduce deaths and injuries during high-risk vehicle events.

adminCOMMERCE, JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 2017
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Pursuit For Change and Toyota USA

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Persistence, people. If your mission is sound, then stay the course and fight the fight…

On May 27th, the 9th anniversary of Paul’s death, two Toyota USA senior management VPs are flying to Madison to meet with Jon Farris, Chief Advocate of Pursuit For Change.

They will discuss the Prius #PoliceChase advertising campaign and how Toyota can support the Pursuit For Change mission.

Never a dull moment in the quest to reduce unnecessary #PoliceChases and save lives of innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers.

An Open Letter To Toyota USA

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Feds fail to track deadly police pursuits

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Tom Frank
USA Today
September 29, 2015

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/09/29/nhtsa-police-high-speed-pursuit/72617864/

The U.S. government has drastically understated the number of people killed in high-speed police car chases, potentially by thousands of fatalities over several decades, a USA TODAY investigation shows.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration overlooked at least 101 motor-vehicle deaths in 2013 that were related to a police chase, according to a USA TODAY review of police reports and internal documents, court records, police-car videos and news accounts based on police statements. NHTSA’s count of 322 chase-related deaths in 2013 — the most recent year for which its records are publicly available — understates the total by at least 31%, the investigation shows.

NHTSA’s undercount suggests that the actual number of people killed in police chases since 1979 could be more than 15,000 — far more than the 11,506 chase-related deaths found in the agency’s public records — and that chases result in a death much more frequently than studies have stated.

The findings expose potentially major flaws in how the federal government tracks motor-vehicle fatalities and, to a lesser extent, how police document high-speed chases, which often result in innocent people being killed and have been sharply restricted in some cities. USA TODAY reported in July that as many as one-fourth of those killed were bystanders and another one-fourth were passengers in cars fleeing police.

In most of the 101 deaths found by USA TODAY, the failure to say they were related to a police chase points to problems with how NHTSA gathers information from states on fatal crashes and codes the crashes in a database used by Congress, safety experts, local officials and insurance companies to find trends and possible safety improvements in motor vehicles, driving laws and policies.

“That’s pretty significant,” said Frederick Rivara of the University of Washington, a leading researcher on accident and injury prevention who has studied fatal police chases. “You would not expect to have that amount of undercounting,”
USA TODAY
High-speed police chases have killed thousands of innocent bystanders

NHTSA had no explanation for the findings and said it is now reviewing 30 crashes that it lists as not involving a chase but for which USA TODAY obtained a police report stating a chase was active at the time of a crash, or was related to a crash. Those 30 crashes resulted in 39 deaths.

“We are very interested in understanding if the cases were coded correctly,” NHTSA said in a statement, adding that it might consider changing the training and guidance it gives analysts. “We do appreciate your bringing these to our attention since we want to publish the best data possible.”

NHTSA is charged with recording and analyzing every fatal motor-vehicle crash, yet it has no record at all of at least 26 crashes, resulting in 38 deaths, that involved a motor vehicle being chased by police in 2013. The omissions include two of the year’s deadliest crashes: a police chase on March 20 in Kingsville, Texas, that resulted in seven deaths, and a Nov. 23 chase Falfurrias, Texas, that ended with five passengers being killed. Both crashes involved smugglers carrying undocumented immigrants and were well publicized.

The omissions also raise questions about NHTSA’s assertion in a July report that “nearly 100% of crashes involving a fatality make it into (the) database.”

“These data are critically important for helping us make the public safer and making motor vehicles safer and better,” Rivara said. “The community that does research on injuries trusts the NHTSA data for being accurate.”

Frederick Rivara is a leading researcher on accident
Frederick Rivara is a leading researcher on accident and injury prevention who has studied fatal police chases. (Photo: Handout)
NHTSA, an arm of the Department of Transportation, analyzes police reports, death certificates and other records for each of the roughly 30,000 fatal crashes a year, and codes each crash in a database on dozens of factors that may have caused or influenced the crash, ranging from a motorist’s speed, sobriety and driving history to the weather and road condition.

Although the database helps guide policy, the agency and police officials have long known about potential inaccuracies in the agency’s annual count of fatal police chases because the nation’s 18,000 police departments document crashes in widely varying ways, and NHTSA has no requirement that police note they were chasing a motorist. The International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1996 urged NHTSA to establish standards on when police departments should report chases so the agency could “accurately account for all pursuits.”

But NHTSA’s 148-page crash-reporting guidelines, first published in 1998, say nothing about reporting police pursuits, and its coding manuals are vague about when NHTSA analysts should list a crash as involving a chase.

“There’s no national database on any number of things police do,” said John Firman of the chief’s association, noting a dearth of information on police use of force that led to President Obama’s Police Data Initiative, launched in May. “The overarching issue is that in critical issues surrounding police activity, everybody wants to be able to say, ‘Here is a definitive, reliable database, so we can talk about national, regional and local issues.’ ”

USA TODAY found the 101 chase-related deaths by searching the Internet and a news database for articles. There could be more deaths that were not publicized by police or a news organization.

Researchers have used NHTSA data on police chases to recommend policies, including restrictions on the type of offenses for which police should chase a motorist. A growing number of police departments permit chases only of fleeing drivers suspected of a violent felony.

But by undercounting chase-related deaths, NHTSA could be unintentionally easing pressure on police to restrict chases, said Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina, a leading researcher on pursuits who has done studies for the Justice Department.

“It becomes less of an issue for the public and the politicians,” Alpert said, adding that NHTSA should stop counting chase-related deaths if it can’t count them precisely. “If it’s not accurate, why put out all these numbers?”

NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge, asked earlier this year how accurate the agency records are concerning police chases, said, “To the extent that information included in police action reports accurately reflects what happens, [the database] accurately reflects that information.”

NHTSA relies on analysts from each state to enter crash details into its database, and those analysts generally review only a police crash report, which typically runs a few pages and includes basic information about the people and motor vehicles involved along with a one-paragraph narrative. Some police departments do not mention a chase on the crash report, recording it instead on a separate, more-detailed document that NHTSA analysts do not read.

“There’s all kinds of things that NHTSA doesn’t ask about or know about,” said Capt. John Magill of the Miami Township Police in Ohio, where two officers were suspended for violating the department’s pursuit policy following their April 15, 2013 chase, which resulted in the deaths of two people in a fleeing car. The crash report — and NHTSA records — say nothing about a pursuit, which is described instead in a separate police file.

“It’s not my fault that they don’t ask me the right question,” Magill said of NHTSA.

The four-page Ohio Traffic Crash Report, used by police statewide, is typical of state crash forms. It has 50 boxes where officers enter a number or a check mark to note factors such as motor-vehicle type, injury severity and “contributing circumstances.” There’s no place to note a police chase, leaving it to officers to include that information in a one-paragraph narrative, or in a separate report, not read by NHTSA.

“We’re focused on the crash itself,” said Lt. Craig Cvetan of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “A crash is not caused by a pursuit. The crash is caused by the actions of a driver, so that’s what the report documents.”

In Prince George’s County, Md., near Washington, D.C., police who chased Ronald Hayes Jr. on Dec. 8, 2013 did not mention the chase on the three-page crash report, even though Hayes was charged with fleeing or eluding police as well as manslaughter after he hit and killed two women in a minivan.

The police were not a “proximate or contributing factor” in the crash “and therefore [are] not mentioned” in the crash report, department spokeswoman Julie Parker said, adding that the chase was documented in a separate police record and in a news release. Police would note a chase in a crash report only if an officer was involved in the collision or if the officer’s driving “directly led to the impact,” Parker said.

The Prince George’s incident is one of at least 15 crashes in 2013 in which a crash report — and NHTSA records — say nothing about a police chase, but a driver was charged with fleeing police in a vehicle, or police records other than the crash report describe a chase, USA TODAY found.

Police have wide discretion not only in whether they mention a chase on a crash report, but also in whether they indicate that a chase contributed to a crash. NHTSA says a crash involves a police pursuit if a chase is active at the time of a crash, or if it has been called off but is “related to the crash.” Agency officials acknowledge that the definition is subjective, and that it relies heavily on how police describe crashes.

USA TODAY found 10 crashes resulting in 13 deaths in which police said they had called off their chase. In some of those cases, drivers continued speeding after police stopped, and it’s impossible to tell what role the initial chase played in the crash. USA TODAY did not include those 13 deaths in its tally of 101 chase-related fatalities not counted by NHTSA in 2013.

Contributing: Mark Hannan

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USA Today Police Pursuit Series – Police Chase Deaths Up In 2014

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12/23/2015

Hi Jon,

The story for which you and I spoke yesterday is up on our website —

Police chase deaths up in 2014

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/12/23/police-chase-deaths-up-in-2014/77762174/

Thanks again. You are always great to interview. It would be great to meet, so please let me know if you’re ever in DC.

Tom Frank
Reporter
USA Today

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Failing Legal System

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1/31/2016

http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/mailbag/sheldon-richardson-sentence-sends-the-wrong-signal/article_6c5f69c2-4a1a-5db7-a691-dc814b939db0.html

Op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The legal system has failed in its treatment of Jets’ defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson (“Richardson draws fine, no jail time,” Jan. 27).

To let Richardson off with a slap on the wrist sends the wrong signal about high-speed police pursuits and the inherent risks. Mr. Richardson’s poor decision to flee — at speeds topping 140 mph — did more than temporarily endanger himself. His actions threatened the safety of his passengers as well as the pursuing officers and countless innocent civilians who unknowingly ended up in his path.

With his decision to let Richardson dodge serious penalty, the prosecutor and judge missed an opportunity to send the right message that fleeing law enforcement officials is totally unacceptable.

Each day in the United States, one person dies from a police pursuit and one-third of those fatalities are innocent victims. Chases are inherently dangerous for pursuing officers, with the potential to wreak havoc even greater than the loaded handgun found in Richardson’s car.

While St. Louis appears content to all but reward reckless actions, other police departments around the country are adopting tougher pursuit policies, tougher sentencing, and alternatives to pursuits including GPS tracking technologies to curb high-speed chases altogether.

On a personal level, I am appalled by the decision in this case. I live every day with the pain of losing my son, who was an innocent bystander killed by a vehicle fleeing police. I hope that by raising awareness of this critical issue, future judgments deal severe sentences, and ultimately pursuits like Richardson’s are lessened and nearly eliminated.

To get involved with this important work, please sign our Change.org petition: www.change.org/p/attorney-general-of-the-united-states-prevent-unnecessary-police-pursuits-and-save-innocent-victim-lives.

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NBC Chicago Investigates Police Chases – Part I

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Here is the first of several Chicago NBC5 #PoliceChase newscasts. Incredibly sad stories. Thanks to Producer Katy Smyser ( ) for allowing us to help with her research and thanks for her persistence in sharing the extent of this problem, not just in Chicago, but across the country.

http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/Chicago-Area-Police-Pursuits-Kill-Injure-Scores-of-Innocent-Bystanders-378166131.html

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KQRE Prius Police Chase Report

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque family is joining the push to pull a national television ad.

They believe the ad, which debuted during the Super Bowl, for the new Toyota Prius is insensitive, saying there is nothing funny about bank robbers leading police on a chase.

The original spot starts with bank robbers’ getaway car getting towed. They see a Toyota Prius and make a run for it, in the commercial.

“This thing is actually pretty fast,” an officer notes during the fictional pursuit.

But six years ago last month, the New Mexico Bank and Trust on Louisiana was robbed. A police pursuit then occurred, and the robber, Jeremiah Jackson, crashed into a stop light on Coors near I-40. Janice Flores and Kimberly Aragon Nunez were killed during their lunch break.

Reached by phone in Los Angeles, Lucas Aragon, Kimberly’s brother, said, “It’s been six years, but honestly it just feels like the other day.”

“My initial reaction to the commercial is that it was irresponsible for Toyota to utilize that as a marketing tool to sell their product, and if anything, it just glamorizes and encourages more police chases,” he said.

He’s not the only one. Jonathan Farris, chief advocate for the organization Pursuit For Change, released an “Open Letter to Toyota” on Monday. His son, Paul, was killed nine years ago and was an innocent bystander of a police pursuit.

In the letter, Farris expressed frustration with the series of Prius ads, saying they disrespect victims and law enforcement.

Aragon said, “I think ever since the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase, this has become a form of entertainment for people — and it needs to stop because it kills innocent people, and until it’s affected you, you kinda don’t know how tragic this can be to someone.”

In response to learning about the Aragon family concerns, the general manager of Toyota of Santa Fe said he requested that the regional ad agency pull the Prius police chase ads.

In addition, KRQE News 13 reached out to the corporate offices of Toyota for comment.

“Toyota’s 2016 Prius campaign is meant to be a lighthearted showcase of the unexpected features and improved performance and styling of the all-new 2016 Prius, along with its well-known fuel efficiency,” a statement issued Monday afternoon said. “This tongue-in-cheek parody is in no way intended to be disrespectful of our nation’s law enforcement personnel, whose service to our communities we deeply appreciate, or anyone who may have been affected in this manner by a high speed police chase,” the statement concluded.

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An Open Letter To Toyota USA

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An Open Letter To Toyota USA
May 2, 2016

Hello Toyota,

I thought I’d drop you a quick note. I’d like to reintroduce you to Paul Farris (www.paulfarris.org). I recently talked about him with you, but perhaps you’ve already forgotten.

Paul is my son. Paul is DEAD. Yes, dead for 9 years – killed at age 23. He was an innocent bystander caught up in a police pursuit.

Sadly, he died in a police pursuit similar to those currently being trivialized by your Prius television commercials. It was a police chase that also killed another innocent man and severely injured Paul’s soul mate, Kate.

I know your Marketing and Communications folks have already visited my websites and that pleases me immensely.

I am thrilled that your Marketing leader and I will have an opportunity to meet face-to-face in May 2016.

And I am truly hopeful we will find common ground to support one another’s goals – you selling more cars and me saving many more lives by partnering with law enforcement and legislators to prevent unnecessary police pursuits.

I am honored that you listened to me a month ago and that you made the very responsible decision to discontinue the original Prius police chase / bank robber Super Bowl advertisements.

However, the story does not end there. Not only did you continue your second commercial (with a Prius police car), but you have just launched a truly reprehensible third ad. This one has a group of idiots, driving on a highway and playing ‘chicken’ in front of law enforcement officers pursuing the robbers (https://goo.gl/UNeK1j).

Apparently this is simply a “cute” commercial to you and your advertising agency.

Toyota, Toyota, Toyota. Do you not understand that these commercials are not “cute” in any way whatsoever?

These ads send an incredibly socially irresponsible message to viewers that it’s OK to disrespect law enforcement. And they are certainly not funny to the thousands of us who suffer daily with the deaths or injuries of loved ones as the result of dangerous police chases.

So as a result Toyota, these commercial continue to disrespect Paul, my family, other victims and especially all law enforcement officers who risk their lives for our safety.

Why are you running these ads? May I assume it is to sell your very socially responsible, environmentally friendly Prius?

Perhaps we should not be surprised that Toyota is sending mixed messages: selling a socially responsible ‘green’ vehicle while telling the viewing public it’s OK to drive dangerously and interfere with police.

In your $1.3 billion settlement for covering deadly safety defects, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called out Toyota’s “shameful” behavior that “showed blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to look after the safety of consumers.” Perhaps laws and safety truly are that low on Toyota’s priority list?

Yes Toyota, I know that you spend billions of dollars on advertising. And perhaps because of that it will be tough for my message to be heard – because media certainly doesn’t want to lose the revenue you provide. I would actually match you dollar for dollar just to stop these ads – if I had an extra billion – but I’m a few dollars short.

So instead I’ll continue to share Paul’s story and use Pursuit For Change as my socially responsible vehicle for truly important change. Changes that will save lives of innocent individuals and law enforcement officers. Many of whom we save will be Toyota drivers. And perhaps one of those saved will be a Toyota employee, or the son or daughter of a Toyota employee.

So Toyota, take a deep breath, step up to the plate and pull the plug on all of your police chase ads today.

I will most certainly thank you. And I know Paul would be grateful, too, if he was still here.

 

Jonathan Farris is Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change. Jon’s son Paul was killed in a horrific police pursuit crash outside of Boston in May 2007. Jon can be reached at Jon@PursuitForChange.org.

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Police Pursuits / Police Chases. They happen more than you can imagine

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Please visit http://www.paulfarris.org/real-pursuits.html to see lists of daily chases where innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers are being injured and killed. Help us stop the carnage by signing our Change petition and by sharing this site with your local new channels.

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Toyota Prius police chase advertising

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Help us get these offensive ads off the air. Toyota is totally disrespecting law enforcement and all the thousands of victims who can no longer speak for them selves.

Jon Farris is still working on this ‪#‎PoliceChase‬ ad problem. The original Super Bowl ad has been removed from the air permanently. We are attempting to have the others stopped immediately. Toyota USA VP of Marketing and Communications (the ad boss) is meeting with Pursuit For Change Chief Advocate and founder, Jon Farris, in May 2016.

Sign our Change petition to help the cause.

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