by Jonathan Farris
Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
February 10, 2019
I’ve been feeling really sad for the past few days. Flashbacks to the most horrible time in my life.
On Friday night I received an email from the parents of a young man killed just three days earlier. His death was the result of yet another unnecessary police pursuit for a crime other than a violent felony.
Three days ago we had 1 son, (our only child ) that was a healthy 27 year old man. He had a beautiful girlfriend who was a healthy young 25 year old woman. Our lives changed on the morning of Feb. 6th, 2019 at 2:17 AM at the corner of Mineral Ave. and Santa Fe Highway 85 in Littleton, CO when both of them were killed by a habitual criminal.
This occurred while she (fleeing driver) was being pursued by the Douglas County Sheriffs in a high speed chase, over many miles, at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. It ended with a 100 mile per hour t-bone collision killing 2 beautiful young people starting their adult lives.
At this time my wife and I are and will be for a very long time numb inside. We wake up at night and all is well till that next second when we remember that we no longer have a son.
This should never have happened to anyone, ever. Thank you for listening and hope to hear more about Pursuit for change.
Parents of Ryan Carter
In addition to Ryan’s parents losing their only son, the parents of Ryan’s girlfriend will now have this unimaginable sorrow, because their daughter was also killed.
Two young souls. Two beautiful people with so much to offer the world. Two individuals who should have had many, many more years to live their lives.
Now what? Two sets of parents who must bury their kids. Two families who will never share another birthday with them; or another Christmas; or a special wedding; or perhaps a grandchild who will never be born…
Please, please trust me when I tell you that the pain of these realizations is crushing. And although time will, hopefully, lessen Ryan and Jayne’s parents’ suffering, a deep sorrow and mind-numbing heartbreak has now become part of their “new normal”.
Ryan & Jayne. Photo from Denver7 News
My heart aches for these parents, because, in flashbacks like it was only yesterday, I too lived this nightmare.
Every day I read of another innocent bystander needlessly dying. And every day I’m reminded that my son is gone. And until many, many more of you become truly outraged and insist that pursuit policies and laws be strengthened, there will always be another Ryan and Jayne and Paul.
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
Typically when you hear me speak, or you read stories in which I’ve been quoted, I discuss why law enforcement had better options than a dangerous pursuit. And there definitelyare options. Purchase, implementation and usage of pursuit reduction technology tools (see PursuitResponse.org); significantly more pursuit driving training; stricter emergency vehicle operations requirements and pursuit driving policies. And the list goes on.
To that end, PFC continues to actively support law enforcement in the acquisition of technology tools and with officer safety training (@Below100).
Given that +90% of pursuits begin as the result of a misdemeanor traffic infraction or a property crime, it’s understandable why Pursuit For Change gets so many calls from media when innocent citizens are injured or killed in dangerous chases. And these calls happen frequently because someone is killed every day as the direct result of a police pursuit.
Every once in a while, however, I’m asked about a pursuit which began as the result of a violent felony. Josh Solomon, a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) called me several days ago and we had a long conversation about pursuits in general and specifically about the chase detailed in his story, included below.
In a nutshell, some bad person tried to force a woman into his vehicle. A nearby citizen called 911 and reported the assault.
The sheriff’s department responded immediately and a pursuit of the vehicle began. As you read the article you’ll learn that the fleeing driver lost control, crossed a median, and struck an innocent driver. Luckily the innocent victims survived the crash.
There are some questions surrounding the 911 call, all explained in the article. We’ll certainly learn more about the 911 Center’s follow-up communications as the investigation continues, but regardless I’m not entirely sure the pursuit could have been stopped quickly enough to prevent the crash.
Law enforcement officers have a tough job; one that requires risk assessment and often, immediate and decisive actions. LEOs need tools (strong policies; constant training; command support; etc.). We hire these folks to protect us from those willing to cause harm. I know there are way too many unnecessary chases but in many (most?) violent felony situations, we need law enforcement to do whatever is necessary to apprehend the criminal. Indeed, in these circumstances innocent citizens can be put at risk; but the need to remove these violent offenders from the street will almost always outweigh the need to break off a pursuit or to not pursue in the first place.
Josh asked me if I thought the chase was justified. My opinion? This was a violent abduction attempt. When the deputies arrived, everyone assumed the woman was in that fleeing vehicle. And even though the pursuit put the victim at risk, not pursuing likely would have placed her in even greater peril. So in this violent felony situation, with what was known at the time of first police contact, a pursuit was certainly justified.
A high-speed chase. A deadly crash. Did Pasco deputies get the right info?
by Josh Solomon (@ByJoshSolomon) Tampa Bay Times staff writer
Published: October 25, 2018
Two days after a suspect died while leading deputies on a high-speed pursuit, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco stood in front of reporters and praised the “heroism” of his deputies for trying to save a kidnapped woman trapped inside the fleeing car.
The woman, though, wasn’t in the car.
Just 28 seconds after the Oct. 13 pursuit started, her voice can be heard in the 911 call made from a gas station.
That crucial information never made it to deputies.
They continued the 2½-minute pursuit on State Road 54 until the fleeing driver crossed the median and drove into oncoming traffic, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. The incident ended in a fiery head-on collision with an oncoming pickup truck. The suspect died. The pickup driver was seriously injured.
This latest incident underscores the dangers of high-speed pursuits, a risky law enforcement tactic that has drawn scrutiny across the county. High-speed pursuits have resulted in death and injury, prompting local agencies to restrict when officers can chase a suspect.
But what happens when those officers aren’t getting the most accurate information possible? In this case, Pasco deputies were in the dark about one critical element: There was no kidnapping victim to rescue.
Why wasn’t that relayed to the pursuing deputies? Would it have made a difference?
• • •
The recording of the 911 call, and the notes taken by the call-taker, detail what preceded the vehicle pursuit.
The caller, whose name was not made public, told the call-taker that at about 8:45 p.m. a woman, later identified as Melissa Mary Russo, 44, mouthed the words “help me” to him at the Circle K gas station at 17565 S.R. 54. She was with a man who was later identified as Michael Blomberg, 54.
“Something’s not right,” the caller said.
Then the situation escalated. Blomberg tried to force the woman into a black car, the caller told 911.
“He’s got her in a … headlock, it looks like,” the caller said. “He’s got her in a bear hug right now.”
Then the caller said the man drove away in a gray Chrysler 200 sedan. Deputies dispatched to the gas station started chasing the fleeing car.
A beat later, a female voice appears on the tape of the 911 call.
“Sir, is that the female with you?” the call-taker asked.
She was. The woman had escaped Blomberg’s car and run to the caller. This was 28 seconds after the event log shows the pursuit started.
“FEM WITH CALR,” the 911 call-taker wrote. “CALR HAS FEM IN HIS VEH.” CALR is the man who called 911. FEM is for the woman.
• • •
Here’s what happens when someone calls 911 in Pasco County: Call-takers type notes as they gather information from callers, such as the location and nature of emergencies.
The call-taker’s notes appear on the computer screens of dispatchers and deputies (via their vehicle laptops.) The dispatcher also speaks to deputies over the radio.
This setup allows one person to gather information from the caller while another focuses on sending the right kind of help: officers, firefighters or paramedics.
As deputies raced to the gas station, the recorded radio transmissions reveal the dispatcher briefing them en route using the call-taker’s notes: A woman mouthed “help me.” Her assailant put her in a headlock. He tried to force her into a car. The Chrysler was driving off.
Sheriff’s cruisers, lights and sirens blaring, quickly found the fleeing car.
Blomberg did not stop.
• • •
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office policy that governs pursuits first explains how dangerous they can be:
“Vehicle pursuits conducted by law enforcement personnel often present a significant risk of danger to the safety of the general public, the deputies involved, and the occupants of the fleeing vehicle. National studies have determined that most vehicle pursuit operations conducted by law enforcement are usually short in duration and often result in a crash.”
Therefore, the policy states, Pasco deputies are not allowed to engage in pursuits unless they determine that allowing the suspect to escape is a greater danger to the public than the pursuit itself.
The Pinellas and Hillsborough Sheriff’s Offices and the Clearwater and Tampa Police Departments spell out under what circumstances their officers can chase a fleeing suspect. All involve a list of violent felonies that would justify a high-speed chase.
But in Tampa Bay law enforcement, the Pasco sheriff’s policy is the most permissive, according to Jon Farris, whose advocacy group Pursuit for Change aims to reduce unnecessary police chases. He started it after his son was killed in a taxicab struck by a driver fleeing police in 2007.
Still, the chase policies in Clearwater, Hillsborough, Pasco and Tampa would all have justified a high-speed pursuit in the Pasco case because it involved a possible kidnapping.
“This one was a unique case,” Farris said of the Blomberg pursuit.
Based on what the deputies knew at the time, he said, the Oct. 13 pursuit was justified. But what if deputies had that missing piece of information?
• • •
As the 911 call-taker typed into the computer system that the woman was at the gas station, deputies were already chasing after the Chrysler.
The pursuit headed west on State Road 54. Deputies stayed in constant radio contact with dispatchers.
“Not stopping,” a deputy reported over the radio. “Speed 60.”
A dispatcher asks if the deputies can tell if a woman is in the car. They said they couldn’t. No one in dispatch, according to the radio recordings, told the deputies that the woman was back at the gas station.
During those frantic 2½-minutes, deputies tried to puncture the fleeing car’s tires by laying “Stop Sticks” — tire-deflating spikes — onto the roadway.
Two deputies pursued the Chrysler, and each one’s body camera captured how it ended: The car crossed the highway’s median, driving west into eastbound traffic. Then, just east of Gunn Highway, the Chrysler struck an oncoming pick-up truck head-on.
Deputies dragged Bloomberg from the wreckage and tried to revive him. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The body cameras showed deputies searching the backseat of the Chrysler for the kidnapping victim.
The pickup driver, Kirby Sober, 24, suffered burns and a severe leg injury, according to family attorney Hunter Higdon. Sober must now use a wheelchair. Doctors expect he will be able to walk again after a long recovery.
• • •
The dispatch center is under Pasco County government. County spokeswoman Tambrey Laine would not say if the deputies should have been told that the woman they were trying to rescue was not in the car.
Farris, though, said the information officers receive during a high-speed chase is critical because it determines whether the chase should continue.
“Typically when there is a pursuit the officers or deputies are being monitored by a supervisor who is involved in (making) the call of whether there’s a need to break it off,” he said.
But in this case, he said, “there’s what would appear to be a breakdown in communication.”
Laine said the dispatcher handled the Oct. 13 incident according to protocol. The dispatcher relays information to deputies until they arrive. Then the roles reverse and deputies start informing the dispatcher, she wrote in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times:
“As soon as deputies are engaged, communications begin to flow the other way, with the deputies communicating via radio from the scene to the dispatcher, who enters those notes into our computer system. The focus at this point is on the information the deputy, as a trained first responder, is relaying to the dispatcher.”
But Doll said that even if the pursuing deputies were told there was no kidnapping victim trapped in the fleeing vehicle, they may have still continued the pursuit. They would still have to confirm there was no one in danger.
“We just can’t take somebody’s word over the phone that it’s fact,” he said.
Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.
Yet another #Milwaukee-area stolen car #policechase, this time in very dangerous weather conditions and residential areas. And we’re sure the owner’s #Insurance company will be incredibly unhappy that the stolen car was totaled.
That was the biggest concern for the neighbors. Right where the orange cone is is where the crash happened. Police had been talking — checking the video and got up on it. They saw somebody get out of the vehicle, come up the hill, and run through these trees into the neighborhood nearby.
It was a dangerous combination. High speed. Wet roads. And a tough curve. The result, a BMW left on its side wearing all the marks of a muddy rollover crash.
According to police, the driver would not stop after officers realized the car was stolen and tried to pull it over. The chase that followed did not last long, but the speeds got near 90.
Still, the crash did not stop one of the people inside from taking off and running into the neighborhood close by. Unfortunately, these criminals stealing cars and running from police and running into their neighborhood disrupting their lives stay diligent, keep your eyes open. Police lost him in a foot chase and spent much of Monday trying to track him down. He’s still out in this neighborhood somewhere, I just don’t know where.
Knowing that I literally just left going to the bank and then coming back, it’s fairly quiet when I come back, and there’s Glendale, Brown Deer and Milwaukee in my neighborhood, it feels like, God, is it really that bad?
One person was still in that stolen car and had to be taken to the hospital, but in this neighborhood, many are not stopping their normal routine.
This is a little too close to home, right now, I’m putting up my harvest decoration, I’m not going to let some kid running around stop me from doing that.
Police only had a vague description of the person who got away. The search for him is still ongoing. The other person who went to the hospital did not have serious injuries he’s only being described as an adult man from Milwaukee.
CLEARWATER — Police Chief Dan Slaughter suspended two officers and a detective after an internal investigation found an unauthorized car chase led to a crash that hurt an officer and two civilians.
Det. Frederick Lise, who led the pursuit after a stolen car drove away from a traffic stop in Largo, got 10 days suspension for violating two policies related to operating department vehicles and insubordination and candor. He will also be removed from the agency’s Special Enforcement Unit.
Officers Langston Woodie and Jesse Myers, the latter of whom was hurt in the crash at Rosery Road and Clearwater-Largo Road, were handed five days of suspension for violating the agency’s operating department vehicles policy. Woodie will also be removed from the Community Problem Response Team.
“We are sorry that a civilian got hurt. We’re concerned that our own employee got hurt,” Slaughter said. “We recognize we’ve made some errors here that we’re responsible for.”
The officers and detective could not be reached for comment.
One of the injured civilians, Zoe Applegate, declined to comment through her St. Petersburg lawyer, Sean McQuaid. But McQuaid said Applegate, 20, broke her wrist and underwent emergency wrist surgery at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. She also had multiple broken ribs and head and neck injuries. Her 2015 Chevy Cruze was totaled, he said.
“It was an extremely serious accident,” McQuaid said. “They had a green light and the officer just went right through the stoplight … It had to be a traumatic impact and a surprise to her.”
The passenger in her car, William Gamble, could not be reached for comment. His lawyer did not return a call requesting comment.
According to the internal investigation, a woman reported that her black Ford Expedition had been stolen at 9:25 p.m. May 29 from the Ross Norton Recreation Complex on S Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. About 23 minutes later, Lise, who was hired in 2014, saw the stolen car and started following as it traveled south on Missouri Avenue from Druid Road. Woodie, who was hired in 2016, and Myers, who was hired in 2007, drove up to help. A fourth officer positioned himself down the road to throw tire deflation sticks if needed.
The car pulled into a Wawa on Missouri Avenue just north of Rosery Road in Largo, according to the investigation. The officers tried to conduct a traffic stop, but the Expedition got away and pulled out of the Wawa.
What they should have done at that point, Slaughter said, was stop following the car, head back to the city and notify Largo police. Under Clearwater police policy, typically only violent felonies warrant a pursuit. A stolen car does not.
“It’s tough to do. I’ll admit it,” the chief said. “You get in this profession to try to catch bad guys, so as a police officer it’s very difficult to turn around and go the other direction, but it’s for good reason that this policy exists.”
Instead, the officers chased the car west on Rosery Road and through a red light at the intersection of Clearwater-Largo Road. None had their lights and sirens on — another problem, had the pursuit been authorized to begin with, Slaughter said.
“Even if a person had a misunderstanding on what he could or couldn’t do, there’s no excuse for not utilizing lights and sirens when following a vehicle like that,” the chief said.
Lise, Woodie and the driver of the stolen car made it through. Myers collided with Applegate’s car, heading south on Clearwater-Largo Road, in the intersection. His last recorded speed before the crash was 42 mph.A bystander told investigators he ran up to Myers’ car and started pounding on the door. The officer wasn’t responsive at first. When he came to, his first instinct was to check on the civilians in the other car and his police dog, Axe.
Applegate and Gamble were taken to Bayfront. Myers was treated at Morton Plant Hospital. Axe was checked out and cleared at an animal hospital.
Meanwhile, Lise and Woodie continued after the stolen car until it stopped at 18th Street SW and 10th Avenue SW. The occupants got out of the car and ran away. A suspect was later arrested after investigators found DNA and fingerprints linking him to the car.
All three officers said in interviews with investigators that they believe they violated the pursuit policy. Lise, who is also a member of a multi-department habitual offender monitoring task force, got an additional 5-day suspension because he didn’t keep his supervisors in both the task force and Clearwater police fully informed on what was happening.
It put the other two officers, knowing Lise was in the task force with other supervisors, “in a little bit of a quandary,” Slaughter said.
Times senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or email@example.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.
The driver of a Nissan Sentra didn’t have his headlights on during rainy weather on Nov. 16, 2016, so North Cornwall Township Patrolman Joseph Fischer pulled over driver Marvin Rosa for what he probably thought was a routine traffic stop.
But when Fischer approached, Rosa started driving again, this time with a vengeance, according to Fischer’s written testimony of events. He blew stop signs and red lights and drove 55 miles per hour on 16th Street before stopping again for Fischer, who was in pursuit, on Strawberry Alley at Center Street.
Then, while driving on Royal Road, he braked suddenly, causing Fisher’s patrol vehicle to rear-end his Sentra. That crash finally disabled Rosa’s vehicle, after which he fled on foot until police arrested him.
He later pleaded guilty to fleeing or attempting to elude an officer, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and a multitude of traffic violations.
Rosa is not the only person to throw caution to the wind and attempt to get away from Lebanon County police.
Police charged 59 people with attempting to flee or elude an officer in Lebanon County from 2014-16, almost all of them trying to escape in vehicles that police were pulling over and usually for a traffic violation. Some chases ended in fiery crashes, the death of the violator, injuries to unrelated drivers, and close calls for officers.
“Police pursuits are inherently dangerous,” said Cpl. Adam Reed, a state police spokesman.
Yet local police insist there are times when the benefits outweigh the risk.
James Cole of Lehigh County crashed into a house at 1444 N. 7th Street after leading North Lebanon Township police on a high speed chase.
How often are people hurt or injured in car chases?
According to data compiled by state police, more than 200 people were injured in Pennsylvania police pursuits in 2016. (Photo: By Daniel Walmer)
Only three people died as a result of police chases in Pennsylvania in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, according to a report compiled by state police. The report is based on information that municipal police departments are required to provide annually.
However, there were more than 800 crashes causing more than 200 injuries during chases, according to the report. There was also more than $1 million in damage to property belonging to innocent bystanders and $824,000 in damage to police vehicles.
In 2017, a person who tried to outrun police in Lebanon County died as a result. Brandon Small, 25, attempted to flee Lebanon Police but hit an electrical pole and died from injuries sustained in the crash, according to information provided by police.
How frequently do dangerous chases occur in Lebanon County?
Here are just a few of the cases from 2016 detailed in Lebanon County court records:
James Cole attempted to outrun North Lebanon Township police at 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2016 in a Nissan Altima after being stopped for going 53 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone, according to an affidavit of probable cause from Sergeant Timothy Knight. During the ensuing chase, he drove through multiple yards and a farmer’s field, drove at a police vehicle and just missed, and blew a stop sign, Knight wrote. Eventually, he lost control and crashed into a house on North Seventh Street. “The vehicle started a fire and we had to get the occupant out of the house,” Knight wrote.
Shane Petry drove a sports car through a fire police barricade, causing the fire policewoman to call police. He pulled over. When asked by North Lebanon Township Patrolman Gregory Behney for his license Petry “said ‘sure’ and reached toward his shifter and then hit the gas and started driving away at a high speed.” The chase ended as he was driving north on North Eighth Avenue, went through the Lehman Street red light, and hit a vehicle that was attempting to turn left form Lehman Street onto North Eighth Avenue. The woman driving that car appeared to be injured, Behney wrote.
Motorcyclist Victor Roman fled Lebanon police by driving on a sidewalk and on the opposite side of the road, forcing motorists and cyclists to bail.
Motorcyclist Adam Conway drove against traffic for about a mile on Route 22 and drove more than 50 miles per hour in a 25 mile-per-hour zone in Jonestown with pedestrians around.
Brandon Beatty hit two state police vehicles with his Subaru after driving more than 120 miles per hour on Route 22 and Route 743.
To be sure, not every case in which a person is charged for fleeing or eluding an officer is as dramatic. Gus Valmas faced the charge after failing to pull over in 2015, but police said he never exceeded 35 miles per hour during the pursuit.
Yet dangerous chases have also occurred more recently. In February, Harrisburg resident Francisco Rivera-Vazquez drove 115 miles per hour on Interstate 81 in Lebanon County while passing cars on the shoulder during a chase, according to police. In August, Myerstown resident Michael Richard Brown fled police and drove 88 miles per hour in a 15 mile-per-hour zone on West Mckinley Avenue in Jackson Township, police said.
Still, almost all drivers pull over when they see the flashing lights.
North Londonderry Township police have only been involved in seven pursuits since 2004, according to Police Chief Kevin Snyder. North Cornwall Township only averages 1-2 pursuits per year, Chief John Leahy said.
“Some (officers) can go their entire career without a vehicle pursuit, which is absolutely fine with me,” he said.
How do police decide whether to pursue?
Leahy said determining whether or not to chase a fleeing driver boils down to one basic rule: “when the risk to the general public outweighs what you are (pursuing) the person for, the chase needs to be terminated.”
Yet there are a multitude of factors that officers are trained to consider, local police chiefs said, including traffic volumes, the weather, likelihood of pedestrians in the area, and whether the officer has been able to get a license plate number.
“You’re going to make your decision in a matter of milliseconds,” Leahy said.
The nature of the violation that caused the officer to pull over the vehicle in the first place is also important.
“If it’s a suspected summary offense, the risk outweighs the benefits, so there’s other ways of pursuing that,” North Lebanon Township Police Chief Harold Easter said. “But if it’s a high-profile case, then everything is bumped up and we assume some more risk in order to get that person stopped, because if we (don’t) get them stopped, they might be killing somebody down the road.”
Yet even according to data self-reported by police departments, more than half of 2016 Pennsylvania police chases began with an attempt to pull someone over for a traffic violation and only 13 percent were due to felonies. Almost all of the pursuits in Lebanon County checked by the Lebanon Daily News began with traffic violations.
Pursuit For Change Chief Advocate Jonathan Farris would like to see chases limited to violent felons. Farris started Pursuit of Change after his son, Paul Farris, was killed while riding in a taxi that was struck by a motorist who was fleeing police.
“I do believe that no simple misdemeanor is worth putting law enforcement officers or bystanders at risk,” Farris wrote in an email. “It’s different if the police are chasing an active shooter, a carjacker, a rapist, etc. But no one will ever convince me that the death of my son and the driver of the taxi he was in should have occurred because of an insanely dangerous pursuit after a man who simply made an illegal u-turn and then ran because he didn’t have a valid license. But sadly, these sorts of senseless deaths continue to occur across the US every week and day.”
What are the official policies of Lebanon County police departments?
The Lebanon Daily News was unable to learn the details of various police pursuit policies in Lebanon County because state law mandates that such policies “shall be confidential and shall not be made available to general public.”
According to Snyder, the policies are something that “obviously don’t want the criminal element to know.”
Yet the “vast majority” of states, counties and cities nationwide will release their pursuit policies to the media when requested, Farris said.
“It seems silly to me that PA legislators mandated this,” he wrote.
Leahy said each officer is aware of the policies and procedures in effect and can be subject to disciplinary measures if those procedures aren’t followed.
How do police stop a fleeing vehicle?
In many cases, the technology for stopping someone who has fled has not changed much in the past decade. Aside from simply following, the most popular technique for many departments, including North Lebanon and North Londonderry, is using spikes that deflate the tires of the vehicle, causing it to eventually stop.
State police are trained to use the PIT maneuver, in which the officer intentionally makes contact with the side of the fleeing vehicle in such a way that the tires skid and spin out, according to Reed.
North Lebanon does not perform PIT maneuvers because of the danger involved and the significant training required to perform it safely, Easter said. Leahy said North Cornwall would not rule out ending the chase by making contact with the vehicle if circumstances justified it, such as pursuit of a violent felon whose freedom the officer believes puts the public at risk.
People who choose to flee are panicked, often because they have a suspended license, have an outstanding warrant, or are afraid of what the officer will find in the car, police said – but it’s still almost always a bad idea.
“Statistically speaking, it’s very rare that a person gets away and is not apprehended,” Reed said.
Across Pennsylvania, just 14 percent of fleeing vehicles successfully eluded police in 2016, according to the state police report.
Officers also warned that you even if you outrun a police vehicle, police can identify you through your license plate information. When you are apprehended, you’ll be looking at a possible felony and jail term, and almost certainly a worse sentence than you would have received for just pulling over.
Even after a chase starts, a person will be treated more favorably by law enforcement and the courts if they quickly end the chase, Easter said.
“They need to rethink it real fast and pull over, and if they’re driving under suspension, without a license – take your lumps,” he said. “It’s better than getting involved in an accident and killing themselves or somebody else.”
adminHigh speed chases in Lebanon County lead to dangerous crashes
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)
Down the road in Raleigh, they found the van Erieyana was riding in on its side, and McGregory’s wrecked sedan nearby.
McGregory’s passenger, 25-year-old Shaday Taylor, lost her life, as did Erieyana.
“I can’t believe she’s not here,” Holloway-Burks said with a heavy sigh.
“One person a day dies in a police pursuit,” Jonathan Farris said when he learned about the deadly crash.
Farris is with “Pursuit for Change,” a national police pursuit victims’ advocacy group. It focuses on policy, legislation, technology and training to save innocent civilian and police lives.
He knows Holloway-Burks’ pain all too well.
“Ten years ago, my son was killed,” Farris said. “It was the result of a pursuit that occurred after an illegal U-turn.
“The driver failed to stop for the officer and they pursued.”
Both of these cases point to the biggest change Farris’ group aims to make when it comes to police chases – stop using them for lesser crimes.
“Today, about 90 percent of pursuits are [for a] non-violent felony,” Farris said. “The majority are misdemeanors, traffic violations or something of that sort.”
Farris travels the country providing training to law enforcement to help guide their decision-making process of when to pursue. He also points to technology, such as GPS tracking “darts” and OnStar services that can disable a car, as alternatives to high-speed pursuits.
He says federal grants are available for that technology, and he thinks that’s more cost-effective in the long run, especially considering lawsuits against police departments brought on by grieving families.
“Sadly, that’s what we see most often,” Farris said. “There’s some event, typically tragic, [where] someone is either grievously hurt or someone is killed or a lawsuit is filed before the changes occur.”
“It’s not fair that she’s not here,” Eriel Holloway said with tears streaming down her face. “She should be here with us.”
Eriel is Erieyana’s twin sister. When she spoke with CBS North Carolina’s evening anchor Sean Maroney, she had just turned 15 years old.
“It’s not the same,” Eriel said, wiping away the tears that continued to flow freely. “Each year on our birthday we used to eat cake together, to celebrate together.
“Now it’s just me all by myself.”
“Mothers need to embrace their children,” Holloway-Burks said, sitting near her remaining twin daughter. “Hug them and kiss them every day.”
“When they walk out that door,” Holloway-Burks gestured to the front door, her voice breaking and tears starting to flow again, “they’re not guaranteed to walk back through it.
“It’s not promised.”
Erieyana’s family has enlisted the services of an attorney. CBS North Carolina reached out to Garner police, and they didn’t want to go on camera or comment on this case, citing “a recent pursuit that still may go to litigation.”
However, they did send CBS North Carolina a copy of their vehicle pursuit policy, as did Raleigh and Durham’s police departments and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
After a change to their policy this summer, the Highway Patrol now restricts state troopers from pursuing a vehicle in a chase if the fleeing car is traveling more than 55 miles per hour and the suspect did not commit a felony.
Milwaukee Police officers now have the authority to chase vehicles driving recklessly or involved in mobile drug dealing. Those revisions to the department’s pursuit policy went into effect Friday September 22nd.
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission ordered those changes back in July, after a majority of Common Council members wrote a letter asking them to explore changes. According to those alderman, drivers were fleeing police with no fear of being chased, due to tight restrictions. Before the revisions, officers could only pursue violent felons, and cars involved in violent crimes.
Earlier this month, Alderman Bob Donovan called the new policy “a step in the right direction.”
A number of local families however, aren’t seeing it that way. In late 2009, four innocent people were killed in police pursuits in Milwaukee, prompting Chief Ed Flynn to restrict the chase policy.
Jonathan Farris runs “Pursuit for Change”, a Madison-based group advocating for stricter chase policies. Farris’ son Paul was killed in 2007, when a car fleeing from police slammed into a taxi he was taking in Boston.
“At that point I started researching police pursuits, because it didn’t make sense that they went and chased some guy who made an illegal U-turn.” The new Milwaukee policy won’t allow pursuits for that, but could make way for pursuits involving speeding cars, or cars running red lights.
“There’s an extremely high likelihood that in the not-so-distant future, somebody in Milwaukee is going to be injured or killed because of a pursuit that occurred because of these changes.”
Farris is advocating for more federal and state money to fund things like “starchase”, which attaches a GPS dart to fleeing cars. Milwaukee Police have this technology, but it’s unclear how often it’s being used.
In a statement Friday, the Fire and Police Commission said it will be closely monitoring the results of the new policy, saying “police pursuits should be a last resort, not a first.”
It is my personal opinion that this is a case of a Commission ceding to City Alders’ pressure. Departmental micromanagement by MFPC and a forced weakening of a strong policy, such as currently mandated, will most certainly result in more deaths of innocent Milwaukee citizens.-Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
The opinion of Matthew Flynn in the August 18th Op Ed in this publication, while a valuable contribution to the pursuit policy debate, nonetheless rests on some fundamental mischaracterizations which should be corrected in order for the public to have an honest understanding of the directive recently issued by the Fire and Police Commission.
He begins be stating that “the MPD would be required to continue high speed pursuits of automobiles under some circumstances.” This is false. The directive does not require police pursuit in any circumstance, it instead allows pursuit in certain additional specific circumstances. Current policy language already affords the involved officers discretion when deciding whether or not to pursue and our directive does not demand any change to this discretion.
Many people, including Mr. Flynn, attempt to infer that our directive demands that drivers would be pursued for traffic offenses. While the reason an officer might attempt to pull a vehicle over could likely indeed be a traffic offense, the reason a pursuit might be initiated is because the subject driver is fleeing from a lawful traffic stop at high speeds. The act of fleeing can be a violent felony, and it is the driver of the fleeing vehiclewho is using reckless deadly force by fleeing dangerously at high speed, and it is the driver of the fleeing vehicle who is endangering the public. Furthermore, the reactive pursuit action by law enforcement in these situations is clearly and unambiguously justified by the US Supreme Court majority opinion in Scott v. Harris. Despite this wide legal latitude, the directive keeps in place the existing overarching theme of restriction to the practice and only broadens the existing pursuable offenses modestly and reasonably to include mobile drug dealing, fleeing from police multiple times, and excessively reckless driving.
It is true when the author states “There are many methods and technologies to arrest drivers later, even drivers of stolen cars.” The Fire and Police Commission fully supports and encourages the use of alternative methods for apprehending fleeing drivers. This is why our directive also calls for a follow-up report from the MPD which we hope will show progress in the department’s efforts in non-pursuit follow up. The FPC was forced to ask for such a report on non-pursuits precisely because of the unsatisfactory findings in our commission’s research report on the topic.
Finally, the claim is that replacing Chief Flynn with another police chief will result in an increase of deadly force by MPD is offensive to the professionalism of our police force. The author presents no evidence to support this claim nor does the directive have anything to do with Chief Flynn personally. The FPC is fulfilling its duty to work collaboratively with the Chief to make Milwaukee’s policing more effective. The FPC was in place well before Chief Flynn was hired and he was well aware of the board’s authority when he accepted the position; Wisconsin State Statute Chapter 62.50 clearly states that the board may prescribe general policies and standards for the departments.
As a diverse group of Milwaukee residents acting as the citizens’ voice in fire and police matters, we take this responsibility seriously and are committed to the goal of reducing crime, fear and disorder in our city. The citizen board members of the FPC have heard the undeniable voice of the citizens of the city who have been begging our body to help the police department make our streets safer, and we have acted with a measured and common sense response.
Steven M. DeVougas was appointed to the Board in September 2013, elected Chair in July, 2015 and re-elected Chair in July, 2016. His term expires in 2018. Mr. DeVougas received his Juris Doctor from Marquette University Law School in 2007. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2004, with degrees in Economics and English. He is Past-President of the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers and has been named “40 under 40” by the Milwaukee Business Journal.
Highway Patrol mum on deadly US 23/74 wreck report
HAYWOOD COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) —
The latest report on a deadly Haywood County wreck involving a North Carolina State Trooper is drawing strong reactions from many News 13 viewers. The report said Trooper Hunter Hooper was traveling 115 mph just moments before he crashed into an RV that was making a legal U-turn on US 23/74. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff/NCHP)
One big unanswered question remains about the collision that killed a Florida couple — Who was the trooper trying to stop?
News 13 has asked repeatedly since the crash and has not received an answer.
The Highway Patrol collision report shows a diagram of the wreck and says that the RV, designated as “vehicle 1,” failed to yield the right of way and traveled into the path of “vehicle 2,” which was Trooper Hooper.
The driver of the RV and his wife, Robert and Esther Nelson, died in the wreck.
Highway Patrol has not responded to News 13’s question if the agency has speed policies in place for traffic pursuits.
Jonathan Farris is the founder of Pursuit for Change, which aims to raise awareness about the dangers of high-speed traffic pursuits. Farris said he lost his son Paul in 2007 during a high-speed pursuit that involved a Boston area trooper.
“This is so very similar to stories that happen across the U.S.,” Farris told News 13.
With knowledge of the Haywood County crash, Farris gave this statistic:
“It’s mind-boggling that this continues to happen over and over again because the vast majority, as much as 90 percent, of these pursuits occur as a result of a misdemeanor traffic violation,” he said.
Farris said many high-speed police crashes end in costly litigation for police agencies involved.
Highway Patrol has told News 13 the SBI and the reconstruction team are still investigating this case.
adminHighway Patrol mum on deadly US 23/74 wreck report
Jack Phoenix, a.k.a. SAKE, was the victim of a hit and run in 2015. He was crossing Venice Blvd at 8:30 pm on a Sunday night. Police were chasing a stolen car at high speed. There were no lights, no sirens. “TO SERVE AND PROTECT”. He was only fifteen. He would have been sixteen a month later on Christmas Eve.
High-speed police pursuits can be deadly for police officers, innocent bystanders, and suspects. A 2015 USA Today article reports that from 1979 to 2013, 139 police officers were killed during or as a result of high-speed pursuits. During that same time frame, more than 5,000 passengers and bystanders were inadvertently killed due to high-speed police chases, and tens of thousands of people were injured. Suspects also endangered themselves by choosing to run from the law. USA Today says 6,300 suspects died in high-speed pursuits during the time frame of its research. It’s no wonder that in 1990, the Justice Department called police chases “the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities.”
To reduce the dangers of high-speed vehicle pursuits, law enforcement agencies need to understand the causes of high-speed pursuits, the legal issues involved, the problems behind such pursuits, and the strategies for reducing high-speed pursuits.
Worth the Risk?
In California, only 5% of high speed pursuits were an attempt to catch someone suspected of committing a violent crime; the majority of the pursuits started for a minor traffic or vehicle infraction. In 1998, a study funded by the Justice Department revealed that the most common violation for suspects who caused high-speed pursuits was car theft. The second most common offense was having a suspended license, and the third was avoiding arrest.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn believes that the risks involved with high-speed pursuits do not justify the rewards. In an interview for that 2015 USA Today article Flynn said, “Overwhelmingly, someone is fleeing because they’ve got a minor warrant, their car isn’t insured, they’ve had too much to drink…the sanctions imposed by courts nationwide for merely stealing a car don’t justify anybody taking any risk.”
James Vaughn is the chief instructor at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy Driver Instructor Course. In 2004, he showed his class of officers a video of a police chase that ultimately ended with the fleeing vehicle being rammed by a police cruiser, leading the passenger and her child to be ejected. The driver’s offense was possessing a small amount of crack. Vaughn asked if a suspect could be shot for possessing a small amount of crack and equated the two events. Vaughn says that many officers “perceive a fleeing suspect as something personal.” He goes on to say that thankfully, “there has been an evolution of the profession through better training and better policies.”
The Courts and Pursuits
Vaughn’s lecture raises the subject of the legality of vehicle pursuits as a use of force and the liability that can result from their consequences. It has been reported that vehicle pursuits are the second greatest source of awards and judgments against law enforcement agencies.
The constitutionality of high-speed pursuits has come under scrutiny in recent decades, focusing on what the courts sometimes view as a “disproportionate use of force.” In the 1973 case Johnson v. Glick, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals published a test to determine whether police used excessive force. This test has four aspects: 1) the need for the force, 2) the relationship between the need and the amount of force used, 3) the extent of the injury, and 4) the officer’s motives. An action that does not pass this test is a violation of the suspect’s 4th and 14th Amendment rights.
The Glick test was used in 1985 during the ruling on Tennessee v. Garner, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that established officers cannot legally kill unarmed persons just because they are running away from the officers. In its ruling, the Court noted that the need to catch Garner, who was suspected of burglary, did not outweigh the suspect’s life because he did not pose a considerable threat to society even though he committed a felony.
In 1989, the Supreme Court again made a decision regarding disproportionate force, this time with regard to non-lethal force. In Graham v. Connor, the Supreme Court used both the Johnson v. Glick and the Tennessee v. Garner opinions to determine that force should be proportionate to the danger posed by the subject, the seriousness of the offense, and the harm in failing to capture the subject.
Since high-speed pursuits are so dangerous, why are they so prevalent? Perhaps the frequency of high-speed pursuits is due in part to the Broken Window Theory, which George Kelling and James Wilson discussed in their article titled “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety.” This theory posits that uncontrolled minor crimes leave room for major crime to slowly creep into the community.
A 2008 study titled “Police Pursuits in an Age of Innovation and Reform” by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that 91% of all high-speed pursuits begin with the suspects committing “non-violent” crimes. Departments have implemented vehicle pursuit policies to deter crime, building the (more or less accurate) perception that fleeing the police in a vehicle, even after a non-violent crime, will result in being caught and facing serious consequences.
On the other hand, the Milwaukee Police Department has instituted a no-pursuit policy if the suspect did not commit a violent felony. Alderman Bob Donovan, a member of the Public Safety Committee in Milwaukee said during a TV interview, “We’ve seen a significant level of disorder as a result of this policy,” and that the city’s no pursuit policy is “fueling crime across Milwaukee.” Critics like Donovan claim that because criminals are becoming aware that these “no pursuit policies” are in place, they think they are more likely to be able to get away with small crimes. The data supports this argument. Motor vehicle thefts, in which Milwaukee police are instructed not to engage in high-speed pursuits, increased from 12 per day in 2013 to 18 per day in 2014. Chief Flynn told USA Today, “These kids were finding out, well, nothing happens to me. They had the prestige of being cool to their friends, the thrill of the danger and no consequences.”
This is the conundrum facing law enforcement agencies. How can they reduce the number of high-speed pursuits while still maintaining departmental integrity so that justice is enforced equally and thoroughly?
When it comes to reducing high-speed pursuits, there are various strategies that a law enforcement agency can employ in order to maintain an effective response plan. There are pluses and minuses for each. If a department changes the policy to instruct officers to never pursue fleeing suspects in vehicles, problems with consistent enforcement may arise. On the other hand, high-speed pursuits can be extremely costly, both in terms of people killed and injured and in terms of lawsuits against the involved agency.
One strategy to curtail unsafe high-speed pursuits is a simple change in policy. In 2010, the Milwaukee Police Department began restricting high-speed pursuits to suspected violent felons. From the period of 2010 to 2014, injuries from high-speed pursuits in Milwaukee dropped. The Florida Highway Patrol adopted a similar policy in 2012. Highway Patrol officers were told to only chase criminals suspected of violent felonies, drunk drivers, and reckless drivers. In 2010 and 2011, high-speed pursuits by the Florida Highway patrol numbered 697. In 2013 and 2014, the number dropped to 374.
Agencies can also increase training on high-speed pursuits. High-speed pursuits can happen so suddenly that officers often have little time to think before they must make critical decisions. In 2007, Florida Highway Patrol sergeants were surveyed and the study found that 80% did not think that patrol officers received an adequate amount of pursuit training. One way that a law enforcement agency can help train its officers for high-speed pursuits is using a pursuit management continuum—a visual chart that shows what level of force should be used for what type of offense.
A pursuit management continuum has three levels for both the suspect’s actions and for the officer’s responses, the Police Policy Studies Council says. For the officer, the levels are Level 1 Control, Level 2 Control, and Level 3 Control. For fleeing suspects, the levels are Level 1 Flight, Level 2 Flight, and Level 3 Flight.
Level 1 Flight is violations such as minor traffic crimes and other low-threat crimes, to which an officer should respond with an action from Level 1 Control, including simple trailing and stationary roadblocks. In this first level, since the threat to the public is not severe, officers can use techniques that are relatively safe for both themselves and the suspects they are trying to stop. If the suspect does not stop, or if a police officer witnesses a more serious offense, then the situation escalates to Level 2, which includes serious traffic offenses and crimes that present a high risk to public safety but do not justify deadly force such as driving while intoxicated. An officer should respond with Level 2 Controls, including rolling roadblocks or controlled deflation devices (spike strips). As officer and suspect action goes up the continuum, the more dangerous the situation is for those involved as well as bystanders. A Level 3 offense would be a life-threatening felony, something that justifies a deadly force response. A Level 3 Control could be ramming the suspects’ car or using firearms. Using Level 3 controls should be reserved for the most egregious offenses in emergency situations.
Officers can also use GPS to track a fleeing vehicle instead of pursuing. One such technology, StarChase, has been deployed at various law enforcement agencies.
The StarChase system includes a control panel installed inside the officer’s vehicle that the officer can use to arm, aim, and fire the system. The launching component holds the GPS trackers and is installed on the front of the officer’s vehicle. When an officer is chasing a fleeing vehicle, he or she can then arm the system, shoot a GPS tracker onto the fleeing vehicle, and terminate the pursuit. Police can then follow up on the vehicle once it is parked to apprehend the suspect.
In a study of 36 agencies, Dr. Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina found that StarChase was more than 80% successful in leading police to criminals, and that many of the unsuccessful deployments were affected by weather.
Since vehicle pursuits pose a danger to police officers and bystanders alike, law enforcement management ideally should develop and implement a policy that identifies management approval at key decision points for the pursuit to begin and continue. Decision Point One: Do the officers have approval to initiate a pursuit? This decision should be made based on the agency’s policy.
Decision Point Two: Should the pursuit continue beyond its initial moment? This decision must be made based on the totality of circumstances involved and agency policy. For this decision to be effective a superior must direct the pursuit.
Decision Point Three: Should officers from other agencies become involved? The supervisor who is directing the pursuit should maintain communication with other jurisdictions as the pursuit moves into their territory. The primary reason for another agency to become involved is if the initiating agency abandons the pursuit or it needs support.
Decision Point Four: What strategies, tactics, or techniques can be used to physically stop the fleeing vehicle? Once again, agency policy, good police management, and legal mandates must guide the decision-making process and any action taken should require command approval.
Decision Point Five: Should the pursuit be terminated? This decision may be made at any time, beginning with the request to initiate the pursuit, or any time prior to apprehension of the fleeing vehicle. This decision may be made by the initiating officer or management, but management will have greater objectivity and the expertise to make the most effective decision.
Each of these decisions is best made by management. Officers involved in a pursuit are extremely busy, and they are also feeling a rush of adrenaline. They need guidance commanders who are not participating in the pursuit.
Accountability and Assessment
Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses a voluntary reporting system for law enforcement vehicle pursuits. This means that police departments are not required to report all data from pursuits that occur within their jurisdictions. Police departments can opt out, for example, of giving NHTSA an accurate count of officers, bystanders, and suspects injured or killed as a result of high-speed chases. To keep the department accountable, agencies should require that all of their data to be sent to NHTSA, regardless of how it makes the department look. This will pressure the department to actively reduce the number of pursuits and increase safety when pursuits do occur.
The first step in assessing the effectiveness of implemented strategies is to collect data before the changes are put in place. At least a year’s worth of data should be collected so that future data will have a comparative sample. If data is collected only over a couple of months, then the sample size is too small, and it becomes hard to assess the effectiveness of implemented programs.
When looking at pursuit data, simply recording the number of pursuits will not show anything substantive. Even though there will be an expected drop in the number of high-speed pursuits due to officers being instructed to only pursue certain types of offenders, data should still be collected regarding related injuries, fatalities, costs, and the number of pursuits. By collecting all of the different types of data, law enforcement agencies (or the outside sources they hire to analyze the data) can determine whether or not their implemented strategies have been effective.
After the data is analyzed, agencies can adjust their policies and procedures as needed. Once these amended policies are in place, the process must start over with data collection from the new policies. This process should continue until the department is content with the amount of data it has recorded.
High-speed pursuits are a very dangerous task that law enforcement officers sometimes must undertake. Such pursuits are more common than many would assume, and an unfortunate number of them end in crashes resulting either in casualties or fatalities. However, if police agencies understand the causes of high-speed pursuits and how to reduce their likelihood, they will be better prepared to improve officer and bystander safety.
Patrick Oliver served as chief of police for the cities of Fairborn, OH, and Grandview Heights, OH, and as ranger chief of Cleveland Metropolitan Park District. He has significant experience with pursuits, having worked 11 years as a trooper with the Ohio Highway Patrol. Oliver is currently director of the criminal justice program for Cedarville University.
Samuel Kirchhoff is a criminal justice student at Cedarville University.
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.
by Jon Farris, Chief Advocate – Pursuit For Change
Rose Capela DeAngelis-Bio May 25, 2017
Rose should have turned 18 on this day, if she was still alive.
But Rose, like so many other innocent victims, was killed as the result of a police chase once again gone horribly wrong.
Here’s the first note I received from Patti, Rose’s mom:
I lost my 16 year old daughter in a tragic and senseless accident. Rose Capela Bio died September 21, 2015 at 1:14am. She died in surgery, after the vehicle in which she was riding in the back seat, flipped multiple times during a high speed police chase begun because the driver didn’t stop when the police tried to pull him over.
All FOUR (4) kids in the vehicle died.Rose was the only one wearing a seatbelt. The other three occupants died instantly, and Rose fought her hardest but was injured so seriously that she too was taken to heaven. I realize this would not have happened if the driver had stopped, but nonethless I will spend my life advocating to end high speed police chases.
Since receiving Patti’s note we’ve remained friends in contact. We are kindred spirits – parents of children killed as the result of a police pursuit.
Rose would have be graduating from high school this year – but no… So to help with the pain, Patti’s children and nieces started a rock painting group called “Rocks4Rose“. I’ve included a Facebook link below.
Patti tells me that Rocks4Rose is helping Rose’s family and friends with their healing. The group paints rocks and leaves them in places for people to find. Awesome!
We had one lady post saying her friend found one at the foot of the statue of liberty! And another was found in Baja California, so that’s kinda cool. We share Rose’s story on the @Rocks4Rose page on Facebook (http://bit.ly/2pU7Z66) hoping to raise awareness about teens and police chases. If you have a minute, check out the page.
I highly encourage you to visit Patti’s Rocks4Rose Facebook page and perhaps paint a rock yourself. But even if you can’t paint, please remember the innocent victims killed. And remember there are thousands upon thousands of people living in pain because they lost a loved one in an avoidable police chase.
Here’s an article published the day of Paul Farris’ death. So tell me, exactly what’s changed in 2016?
Police chases not worth risk of tragedy May 31, 2007
by Margery Eagan Boston Globe Columnist
“Here’s yet another question: would you prefer someone driving through Boston erratically at 40 mph, or chased by police, at 70 or 80 mph?”
Explain this, please: Because about 100 children a year are abducted and killed by strangers, we have totally revamped American childhood. Good parents won’t even let children in the back yard alone. Yet at least that many innocent Americans, including children (some estimate two or three times as many) are killed every year in police chases. And every time I’ve written a column asking if these chases are worth it, the response is the same. Surely I am insane.
Two innocent bystanders killed; one permanently injured The latest police chase tragedy came early Sunday morning when Javier Morales, 29, refused to stop for a state trooper in Everett. Morales made an illegal left turn off Route 16. He had no license and feared jail time for a previous no-license arrest. Perhaps if he faced greater jail time for refusing to stop for police a penalty many have proposed to reduce these chases Morales, weighing his options, would have made a different choice. To stop. As it was, Trooper Joseph Kalil chased Morales stolen SUV from Everett to Somerville’s Davis Square, where Morales plowed into a cab driven by Walid Chahine, 45, a husband and father. In the backseat were musician Paul Farris, 23, and his girlfriend Katelyn Hoyt. Hoyt and Chahine [Walid Chahine died at the hospital.] are at Mass. General, critically injured. Farris is dead. The fourth victim: Trooper Kalil, who must live with what happened for the rest of his days. So why is it that state police here, and in many other states, chase traffic violators at all? Boston police don’t. Neither do police in many other big cities, in part because of the risk of multi million-dollar lawsuits. Boston’s pursuit standards are higher than those followed by state police: Boston is supposed to chase only violent or dangerous suspects or those driving erratically, possibly because of drugs or alcohol. Here’s yet another question: would you prefer someone driving through Boston erratically at 40 mph, or chased by police, at 70 or 80 mph? One more question: Why do we assume that chasing even dangerous criminals is always worth the risk of maiming or killing a pedestrian or family in a minivan?
Myth vs. Fact
The myth, by the way, is that police typically or even regularly chase the dangerous, that there’s a dead body in the trunk, says Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina, who has studied police pursuits since 1983.
The fact is, between 75 and 80 percent of chases occur after moving violations, says Alpert. They’re mostly young kids who’ve made stupid decisions. The more powerful tool for police? Turn off the lights and siren and it’s more likely the suspect will slow down.
I guess the idea of letting the bad guy get away seems un-American. Perhaps, too, the car chase is too rooted in American legend, from The French Connection to O.J. to whatever live police pursuit Fox and MSNBC can find and broadcast.
And perhaps politicians don’t want to buck police. And then there’s adrenaline: If you’ve heard a chase on a police radio, you know want I’m talking about.
Yesterday Pearl Allen, a retired music and Afro-American studies teacher at John D. O’Bryant School, said what many say who lose family to police pursuits. That if police hadn’t chased, her grandson would still be alive.
Quentin Osbourne, once a standout for the Boston Raiders Pop Warner team, was 15 when he was ejected from a Hyundai Elantra he and six friends had piled into.
The 16-year-old unlicensed driver ran a stop sign. Police chased. He drove into a brick wall.
They were just kids, his grandmother said. (The police) put on the flashing blue light. I think the driver got scared and sped away, and they just kept chasing until they crashed.
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.
adminInvestigators continue to piece deadly chase and crash together
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.
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.
Tullahoma Mayor Calls for Change After Second High Speed Chase Ends in Death
BY SABRINA HALL
@FoxNashville THURSDAY, JULY 14TH 2016
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.
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
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.
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.
adminToyota Prius Commercial Update – June 28, 2016
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
By The Editorial Board
Rockford Register Star
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
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.
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.
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.”
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
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
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.
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
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
possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana
unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia
driving while driver’s license is revoked
no seat belt
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.