December 1, 2022: Jon Farris, Chief Advocate of Pursuit For Change, writes about a technology crowdfunding pledge opportunity. Please take a moment to learn about an opportunity that will most certainly lead to fewer policy-pursuit related injuries and deaths.
During the past 15+ years, since the death of my son Paul, I have advocated for stricter policies and smarter laws surrounding police pursuits. Additionally, I have supported companies that have developed pursuit reduction and safety technology tools to reduce chases and help save innocent lives.
Today I’d like to introduce you to one of those companies, PursuitAlert.
Tim Morgan is a cofounder and CEO of Pursuit Alert. Tim has spent nearly forty years working with and for law enforcement, serving twenty-two as a Pickens County SC Assistant Sheriff. I have known Tim since 2016 and I know how committed he is to saving lives.
The PursuitAlert Digital Siren is a patented warning system that allows law enforcement to send real-time, critical messaging to your smartphone when you are near any emergency response including dangerous police pursuits.
WHY am I reaching out today? The PursuitAlert team needs support to expand their system and network. They have recently developed relationships with Waze Maps, Apple Maps, Stelantis passenger vehicles (Chrysler, Jeep) and have just signed an NDA for discussions with Amazon. And even more vehicles and smartphone apps will be added in the near future.
So I’m asking you to consider an investment PLEDGE. This website (https://pursuitalertdigitalsiren.sppx.io/) provides an overview of what the PursuitAlert team is proposing and has planned for the company going forward. This is a “Testing the Waters” pledge. The choice is yours, but I do hope you’ll seriously consider signing up to support PursuitAlert.
“Jonathan Farris, an advocate for the nonprofit Pursuit for Change, an organization that pushes for safer police pursuit policies, called the Santa Fe Police Department’s chase policy vague and said it doesn’t give much direction for when an officer should give up on a pursuit.”
Pursuit policy questioned after deaths in I-25 crash
By Sean P. Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org Mar 19, 2022 Updated Mar 20, 2022
Jeannine Jaramillo’s alleged crimes in Santa Fe and Cibola counties within months of each other are strikingly similar: stolen cars, reckless chases and claims of a kidnapper or male aggressor who doesn’t appear to exist.
The outcomes widely differ.
When Jaramillo was suspected of leading Cibola County deputies into oncoming traffic at high speeds in September 2021, they called off the pursuit. They later found the stolen vehicle at a residence and took Jaramillo into custody, according to records of the case.
FBI tactical squad members approach a command center March 2 on Interstate 25 near Old Pecos Trail after a Santa Fe police officer and another motorist, a retired firefighter, were killed in a multiple-car crash during a police pursuit. Jim Weber/New Mexican file photo
We have asked Mr. Thomas to post one correction. This statement “Farris, whose son Paul Farris was killed in 2007 when a cab he was riding in was struck by a Massachusetts state trooper chasing a driver suspected of a traffic violation…” is incorrect. In actuality, the cab Paul was riding in was struck by the fleeing driver’s SUV, and not by the Trooper. An important clarification.
adminPursuit policy questioned after deaths in I-25 crash
Last year I posted a note about Paul’s birthday. It’s so hard to believe that another year has passed us by. I thought, given the world’s issues, I’d post an updated version of that note.
Peace. – Jonathan Farris, Dad, Gatekeeper of PaulFarris.org and Chief Advocate of Pursuit For Change
Some of our readers will envision this particular Tuesday as a year after the United States’ most contentious Presidential election. And that contention continues today through lies and hate. Paul would be appalled.
Some of our readers remain anxious about the pandemic and the devastation caused to individuals, families, countries and the world. As of my writing this, 769,299 people have died in the US and over 5,000,000have died worldwide. Horrible beyond mere words.
But on November 2, 2021 I take a moment to forget the noise, to forget the pandemic, and instead focus on wonderful memories.
Paul Farris was stolen from us in 2007. And 2021 will be the 15th missed birthday. This is unimaginable to me.
We would have mailed or emailed Paul a cute birthday card, texted him a funny greeting and then spoken to him after work. The way it’s supposed to be.
He would be heartbroken that such a horrendous chapter of history continues in 2021. However, I suspect that in addition to being despondent, he’d be engaged doing whatever he could to make a better future for all of us.
Or perhaps he’d just be sitting around drinking beer. We’ll never know…
Just like every birthday, and indeed every single day, we miss you immensely.
City Council committee to consider police pursuit changes
UPDATED 14 HRS AGO | POSTED ON JUN 28, 2021
ATLANTA (CBS46) — Joi and Doug Partridge will never forget the day they lost their two children Cameron and Layla, and Joi’s mother, Dorothy Wright. Wright was driving her grandchildren to church when she was hit by the driver of a stolen car fleeing from police in 2016 in Southwest Atlanta.
“It really hurts because I lost my parent and my two kids,” Joi Partridge told CBS46’s Hayley Mason.
Police said officers attempted to stop a stolen vehicle on the 9900 block of West Good Hope Road shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday, but it instead led them on a chase and eventually crossed over into oncoming traffic. Police said the pursuit was then terminated, but the car continued to drive against traffic and hit another vehicle head-on at 50 to 60 miles an hour
Officer Irvine’s death was completely preventable.
But instead, Milwaukee chose to double down and chase even more stolen vehicles, KNOWINGLY ENDANGERINGmany many citizens each and every time.
So FOUR YEARS after making a truly CRITICAL MISTAKE, Milwaukee continues to endanger, maim and kill citizens while NOT solving anything. Is this incompetence or simply a blatant disregard for the area’s population?
PS: Oh, I almost forgot. Milwaukee is working on yet more billboards. Just brilliant…
From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article above:
“A cadre of city officials announced a new billboard campaign discouraging reckless driving. And they all touched on the troubling problem of people as young as 12 years old stealing cars and using them for joyriding and driving dangerously.”
Hamilton County Police Association (Cincinnati Metro Area) Police Pursuit Symposium / WCPO interview
Jon Farris, Chief Advocate for Pursuit for Change, was a featured presenter at the August 19, 2020 Cincinnati Metro Area Police Pursuit Symposium.
Jon spoke about being a grieving father, a police pursuit victim, an advocate for reducing pursuits, a cheerleader for Pursuit Reduction Technology and a strong supporter of law enforcement. This was an excellent, three-hour symposium with tremendous involvement by over 60 command-level officers from throughout the county. Thanks to Lt. Steve Saunders from the CPD for allowing me to participate.
Additionally, Jon was interviewed by Craig Cheatham, Executive Producer/Chief Investigative Reporter of the WCPO 9 I-Team in Cincinnati. Thanks to Craig for this terrific update.
Just remember that in MOST CASES, there ARE OTHER OPTIONS better and safer than chasing!
#PoliceChase #Insurance @PursuitResponse #PursuitForChange #ThereAreOtherOptions #PursuitReductionTech
As pursuit numbers climb, Greene County sheriff looks to new technology for an answer
Harrison Keegan, Springfield News-LeaderPublished 10:00 p.m. CT Sept. 4, 2019
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott fell into a routine this summer.
Seemingly every Monday morning, Arnott and his command staff went to the film room to break down the X’s and O’s of another weekend chase involving deputies and a dangerous driver — many of which either made the local news or were broadcast to a national audience on “Live PD.”
Arnott said the sheriff’s office brass reviewed dashboard camera footage, written reports and the rest of the initial evidence to determine if the deputy’s actions were appropriate and what, if anything, could have been done differently.
“We’re doing the Monday morning quarterback thing,” Arnott said.
The number of pursuits involving Greene County deputies has gone up each of the last three years, and the sheriff’s office has engaged in twice as many pursuits as the Springfield Police Department since 2016.
Jon Farris speaks with Anchor/Reporter Katie Crowther (https://buff.ly/2PAzOim) to discuss #PursuitAlert technology and #Milwaukee #PoliceChases. This is a short story that Katie and Jon hope to follow-up on in a future story. #PursuitResponse
Creators of new app hope police departments will get on board
A father’s plea for change, after losing his son, is now strengthened by new technology on the market.
A safety app was just created with the hope of saving more innocent people from becoming victims in high-speed police chases.
Paul Farris, 23, of Wisconsin died when the taxi he was in was hit during a high-speed chase in Massachusetts. A state trooper was pursuing a driver for a traffic violation. Farris was an innocent victim caught in the wrong place at the wrong time…
by Jonathan Farris
Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
May 27, 2019
Once again I awoke suddenly, shivering in a cold sweat. I had that vision – of theTaxi. Damn.
The Taxi photo courtesy Fox 25 News, Boston . May 27, 2007
My brain was spinning out of control. So. Many. Questions. The first batch were those same questions I’ve asked over and over and over again, virtually every day since Paul was killed.
Why didn’t Morales (the creep who killed my son) just stop?
Why did the State Trooper pursue for a simple misdemeanor traffic violation?
Did the Trooper or Morales even consider the crowded neighborhoods and dangers?
Why did this Trooper continue a 76 MPH pursuitinto Somerville and its narrow streets, a city with a violent felony only pursuit policy?
Even the Somerville Police told me THEYWOULD NOT HAVE CHASED.
Why? Why? So many “whys”
For some odd wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night reason, all I could think about was how Paul was killed. And a bizarre analogy, visiting me yet again, would not go away.
Paul was killed by a 4,600 pound bullet.A bullet propelled not by a gun, but by a vehicular police chase.
Think about it. Paul’s death-by-police-pursuit is no different than if he had been shot by a police officer-fired stray bullet.
I wonder how much outrage a shooting would have sparked? And how many policing policies might have changed to ensure such an event didn’t happen to another bystander?
Think about the annual training that officers receive with their firearms. This even though many (most) will never draw the gun from their holster other than for range practice. Yet all officers hop behind the wheel of their squad car every day. And for most of them, tactical driver training has been nothing less than abysmal, with perhaps a few hours of pursuit driving on a closed track every couple of years.
I’ll expound on the squad car-gun analogy another day, but today is for Paul.
When Paul was killed, as in nearly every pursuit situation, the criminal and the officer each had an opportunity to deescalate the situation before the collision. But neither was willing to give up.
Run; run; chase; chase.
And so whether death was from a police-pursued fleeing car or from a stray bullet, Paul and Walid paid the ultimate price.
May 27, 2019 marks the twelfth anniversary of Paul’s death. It marks the anniversary of a crumpled taxi photograph seared painfully into my conscious and subconscious mind.
It marks a new lifetime of working to correct an ongoing injustice. By preserving Paul’s memory and attempting to safeguard others through increased awareness of dangerous and unnecessary police pursuits, perhaps his story will survive.
On Friday, May 17th, Urban Milwaukee published an article highlighting a stolen vehicle police pursuit on North 45th and West Center Street. The fleeing vehicle ultimately rear-ended a taxi cab and crashed. In 2018, after the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (MFPC) 2017 mandate that the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) weaken its nationally recognized pursuit policy, pursuits and these stories have become an everyday occurrence.
The article mentioned that the “City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force is set to meet for the first time on Friday, May 17th at City Hall. Among the topics likely to be discussed during that meeting and the Fire and Police Commission meeting were whether there are new police pursuit technologies that could help improve safety.”
Really? This is ironic as both MPD and MFPC are ignoring their previously successful use of GPS tracking technology, a program which MPD ended in 2018. This, along with a now-cancelled contract to purchase more systems, would have saved innocent lives and reduced bystander and officer injuries. These GPS unit purchases are public record, and in fact, Urban Milwaukee covered this issue as well.
In a recent article Are Police Pursuits Out of Control?, written by Bruce Murphy and published on Thursday, April 25th, it stated:
Under (former Milwaukee PD Chief) Flynn the agency adopted new technology developed by a private company called StarChase, whereby police shoot at GPS “bullet” about the size of a soup can that can stick to a fleeing car. A 2014 MPD report found it is effective in 55 percent of cases, meaning it sticks to a car and an arrest is later made. That compares to MPD’s horrible apprehension rate of 38 percent for 2018’s 940 chases.
“During the year 2016 MPD deployed this technology 156 times, successfully attaching it to fleeing vehicles 112 times,” a past FPC report noted.
The approach enables police to avoid high-speed chases that often are aggressive adrenaline-fueled contests between officers and a suspect that lose track of innocent bystanders in a dense urban setting.
Whereas the StarChase devices “give officers time to [let the adrenaline high pass], so by the time the pursuit is over, they can think more clearly and make better tactical decisions,” as MPD Inspector Terrence Gordontold Governing magazine in 2016. Yet since Chief Flynn retired, there has been no discussion of this technology.
So I ask you, why are the MFPC and MPD leadership ignoring their own past success with this technology?
Technology alone is not a panacea. An intelligent and measured pursuit policymust balance enforcement with the risk to innocent public and officers. That is not happening under current policy, as tragically both officers and numerous civilians have been and will continue to be killed and injured.
No one pursuit-related solution will solve Milwaukee’s crime problems. Managing pursuits in the 21st century requires a mix of appropriate policies, extensive officer training and effective use of available tools.
I respectfully ask that MFPC explain to taxpayers why they ceased supporting a pursuit reduction program that was working. And as MFPC and MPD consider their mind boggling 940 pursuits, reconsider the fact that effective technology, combined with smarter pursuit driving policies, will help tip MPD’s currently abysmal pursuit statistics back in the direction of saving lives and reducing injuries and property damage.
It’s clear that the current pursuit policy is costing too many lives and emptying city coffers.
The Jackson County Sheriff recently enacted a stricter pursuit policy for his department. Terrific!
However, this was after the previous sheriff loosened the policy. Sadly, the negligent actions of a Deputy caused great bodily harm to an innocent citizen.
Dashcam video from a May 9, 2018, traffic collision shows a Jackson County sheriff’s deputy run a red light and crash into another vehicle, severely injuring the other driver. The deputy was involved in a pursuit that started with a broken taillight.
The new policy provides stricter guidelines for police chases.
It replaces the 2017 police pursuit policy that was suspended by Sheriff Daryl Forté, a former Kansas City Police chief who was elected to his current position last year.
The new policy provides greater detail and changes portions of the former policy to restrict circumstances in which officers can engage in high speed chases.
Both the 2017 and 2019 policies state that when bystanders are present the subject of a pursuit must present a “clear and immediate danger.”
While the 2017 policy does not provide a definition of “clear and immediate danger,” the 2019 policy defines it as “any deliberate or intentional act by the pursued vehicle or occupants that would bring fear of death or serious bodily injury or extreme property damage to either the deputies or citizens.” The policy also states that “clear and immediate danger” cannot exist for minor traffic stops or speeding.
The policy creates guidelines for when an officer must end a pursuit. For instance, officers are directed to end chases once communications are established with a law enforcement helicopter or other aircraft that is able to track the vehicle. Similarly, if a deputy successfully attaches a StarChase tracking device to a car, officers must end the chase.
The 2019 policy also prohibits deputies from engaging in pursuits if their dashcams are not working unless the suspect is armed or be known to have committed a dangerous felony.
The new policy was obtained by the Star through an open records request. The 2017 policy was provided to the Star by Brett T. Burmeister, the attorney for Christopher S. Reed, who was the bystander injured in the 2018 chase.
Reed, 30, was thrown from his car and suffered head injuries, spinal injuries and a broken clavicle when Deputy Sean Stoff, 34, slammed into his car after running a red light without his emergency lights and sirens on.
Stoff turned his lights and sirens off after a StarChase tracker was applied to the car but violated department policy by continuing the pursuit without his lights and sirens on. He was charged with misdemeanor careless and imprudent driving Wednesday.
“Obviously the policy itself is not the main culprit in this case,” Burmeister told the Star in an email. “Rather, it’s the deputy who completely disregarded the policy.”
Forte said in a Facebook post Thursday that he became concerned about the policy last year after he was elected. He clarified in another post Friday that his decision was not prompted by only one incident.
“The restrictive vehicle pursuit policy did not occur solely because of one incident,” Forte said in Friday’s post.
adminChanging Pursuit Policies – Often After Tragedy
More and more people are recognizing the highly political nature of Milwaukee’s “pursue for any reason until the wheels fall off” police chase changes. Officers are dying. Innocent citizens are dying. Fleeing vehicles are screaming down Milwaukee’s densely populated neighborhoods at 75 miles per hour and faster – putting EVERYONE at risk. And in 2018, MPD was doing this THREE TIMES EVERY SINGLE DAY.
This is insanity. This is not working. This is killing people. And this needs to stop.
If it takes replacing Aldermen and members of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, then I encourage Milwaukee voters to do something about it.
Do it before some you love is killed unnecessarily.
Thanks to Urban Milwaukee reporter Bruce Murphy for reaching out to me and for writing this thoughtful article about Milwaukee’s out of control police pursuits.
Last week Saturday another person was killed after high-speed police chase. A Fox 6 report included a cell phone video of the police car barreling down a city street and covered the resulting carnage that occurred.
This was in response to what police believed was “drug dealing” with no further information offered. The police did not say the person chased was suspected of committing any violence, which would be consistent with most such chases in America, which are in response to non-violent offenses, typically traffic violations.
The 27-year-old man being chased sped through a stop sign, crashing into another vehicle and then careening into a home, where his car burst into flames and ignited the house. “The vehicle sheered the gas main to the house, creating a very dangerous situation inside the house,” said Battalion Chief Erich Roden, Milwaukee Fire Department.
The man being chased was killed and the driver he hit was injured. “Jazzmine Salaam says the speeding vehicle smashed into her cousin driving an SUV at the intersection of 13th and Capitol. She was taken to the hospital with minor injuries,” as Fox 6 reported.
David Miller, the homeowner, might have been killed but wasn’t at home at the time. He described the explosion to Channel 12, saying it “busted all my windows, everything melted… the TV melted. I lost about 20 good guitars.”
Miller is “still in shock,” says his brother and his home, which was uninsured, is almost completely destroyed. The brother has just launched a crowd funding campaign to pay for a new home.
All told that’s one person killed, one injured and one in shock with an incinerated home, all to capture one guy who may have been involved in a drug deal. That’s how Milwaukee’s police pursuit policy works these days.
Last year, Milwaukee police engaged in 940 chases, nearly triple the number in 2017, and well more than the total number of pursuits for the seven year period from 2008 through 2014, when there were 858 pursuits. These numbers come from a new report by the Fire and Police Commission (FPC).
Slightly more than half of the pursuits in 2018 — 491 — hit a speed of more than 75 miles per hour, and most were on city streets. The percent of police chases that exceeded 75 miles per hour has risen from just 10 percent in 2012 to 52 percent last year, the report found.
About 18 percent of the chases terminated in a car crash and 25 percent caused a car accident. Thirteen officers were injured during the pursuits, one fatally, 112 people being chased were injured, five of whom died and 38 bystanders were injured.
Yet only 21 percent of the pursuits involved a violent felony. Most — nearly 70 percent — involved a traffic violation or reckless vehicle.
And the vast majority of pursuits didn’t catch the subject: Just 38 percent of the pursuits resulted in apprehensions.
The skyrocketing increase in pursuits is the direct result of a new policy pushed for in 2017 by Milwaukee Common Council members. A letter from 13 of 15 council members noted a rise in killings by hit-and-run drivers, and also claimed that speeding, red light-running and reckless driving were occurring at record levels.
Then-Police Chief Edward A. Flynn opposed any change in the pursuit policy.
He had already strengthened the pursuit policy in 2015, which allowed police to chase if either the vehicle or occupants had been involved in a felony or attempted felony, or if the vehicle or occupant(s) presents a clear and immediate threat to the safety of others,” which appeared to target reckless driving.
The result was a significant increase in pursuits, to 263 in 2015 and 306 in 2016 — more pursuits than in any year since 2002. But the council wanted still more pursuits and so the Fire and Police Commission ordered a stronger policy.
A new policy created in September 2017 added language allowing a chase if “the occupant(s) of the vehicle are engaged in drug dealing” and if “the necessity of immediate apprehension outweighs the level of danger created by the vehicle pursuit, as in the case of the vehicle engaging in reckless driving.”
The resulting massive increase in pursuits doesn’t seem to have done much about the hit-and-runs and speeding cited by council members: in 2018 crashes caused by speeding were up by 32 percent and crashes caused by hit-and-run drivers rose 17 percent, the latest police report shows.
Flynn’s successor, Police Chief Alfonso Morales, said the increased pursuits have led to a drop in vehicle theft, carjackings and violent crime. “Is it dangerous? Absolutely it is,” as Morales described the pursuits to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But we’re always looking for an alternative way to make it safer.”
Actually the department had an alternative. Under Flynn it had adopted new technology developed by a private company called Star Chase, whereby police shoot at GPS “bullet” about the size of a soup can that can stick to a fleeing car. A 2014 report found it is effective in 55 percent of cases, meaning it sticks to a car and an arrest is later made. That compares to the apprehension rate of 38 percent for last year’s 940 chases.
“During the year 2016 MPD deployed this technology 156 times, successfully attaching it to fleeing vehicles 112 times,” a past FPC report noted.
The approach enables police to avoid high-speed chases that often are aggressive adrenaline-fueled contests between officers and a suspect that lose track of innocent bystanders in a dense urban setting. “Studies show they almost go into pure tunnel vision when they begin a pursuit. The adrenaline kicks in,” said Jonathan Farris, a pursuit-safety advocate who lives in Madison, WI, in a story by McClatchey.
Whereas the Star Chase devices “give officers time to [let the adrenaline high pass], so by the time the pursuit is over, they can think more clearly and make better tactical decisions,” as MPD Inspector Terrence Gordontold Governing magazine in 2016. Yet since Flynn left, there has been no discussion of this technology.
A model policy by the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends pursuits “only if the officer has a reasonable belief that the suspect, if allowed to flee, would present a danger to human life or cause serious injury. In general, pursuits for minor violations are discouraged.”
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, whose board of directors consists of police chiefs, told McClatchey there is no evidence that restrictions on pursuits lead to increases in crime and lawlessness. His organization advocates for sharp restrictions on pursuits.
“There are too many cases of people dying needlessly – tragedies that trump whatever the other arguments there are about people perceiving this as getting away with infractions,” Wexler said. “We’re talking about saving lives here.”
Farris, who heads Pursuit for Change, a Wisconsin-based advocacy group for victims of police pursuits, spoke to the Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission in 2017 to urge it not to push for more pursuits. He has since written letters to the commission urging a reconsideration of the policy, with no response. His impression was that the FPC, though it is supposed to be an independent agency, was simply doing the Common Council’s bidding.
Farris became an advocate after his son was killed in 2007 during a police pursuit in Massachusetts. “My son and his girlfriend were riding in a taxi which was t-boned by an SUV pursued by the police for an illegal U-turn,” he recalled in an interview with Urban Milwaukee. “My son and the taxi driver were killed and the girl spent years in rehabilitation.”
Farris believes Milwaukee will eventually be forced to change its policy. “They’ve already killed multiple innocent people. There are going to be more people killed and that’s what’s going to inevitably change the policy. Or there will be a humongous lawsuit against the city.”
Meanwhile keeps your eyes peeled for high speed chases. On average there were nearly three such pursuits per day last year.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.
adminMore About Milwaukee’s Dangerous Pursuit Policies
Once again, powerful lobbying groups are simply more concerned with saving money than they are of saving the lives of innocent citizens. This “problem” could be alleviated if the municipalities adopted significantly more restrictive pursuit policies, increased officer training and introduced new pursuit reduction technology..
Bill inspired by high-speed chase in Topeka would remove liability for police
A district court judge rejected claims contending the officer, Patrick Saleh, didn’t have a valid reason to initiate and continue the high-speed chase. An appellate court reversal pointed to a section of state law that says drivers of emergency vehicles have a duty to consider the safety of everyone.
The case is now before the Kansas Supreme Court.
Amanda Stanley, general counsel for the League of Kansas Municipalities, said the case sparked discussion about state law and whether police pursuits merit an exception. The league wants to remove the obligation to drive with a due regard for safety.
“A law enforcement officer’s pursuit of fleeing offenders is inherent in the officer’s duty to protect the public and often involves split-second decisions that are easy to second guess in retrospect,” Stanley said.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee hearing testimony this week about House Bill 2065 pointed out that, as it stands, the law doesn’t distinguish between police and other operators of emergency vehicles. The same standards appear to apply to ambulance drivers, volunteer firefighters and possibly funeral procession guides.
Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, said the law also seems to apply to other police activity, such as an officer responding to a distress call or bank robbery.
“It’s crazy to have a cop going out here 100 mph inside the City of Topeka limits,” he said. “That would be pretty foolish and reckless.”
Facts of the situation need to be considered, he said. David Morantz, a Kansas City attorney whose firm worked on the case in question, recommended that lawmakers wait for the high court to issue a ruling before they reconfigure state law.
“This bill is either a very subtle way to completely change the law in Kansas and immunize law enforcement officers from even the most reckless conduct,” Morantz said, “or it’s a bill that the proponents and sponsors of it simply don’t understand.”
adminKansas Law proposes to remove liability for police driving recklessly
Honorable Tom Barrett
Mayor, City of Milwaukee
200 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Dear Mayor Barrett,
On New Year’s Eve yet another Milwaukee police chase ended with the deaths of three – one being a two-year old child. I am beside myself with grief – for that child and for the City of Milwaukee.
How, other than in a totally political environment, could Milwaukee have fallen so very far in such a short time?
On Thursday, December 6, the Milwaukee Police Department announced that carjackings were down. Fox6Now reported that “Police credit change in pursuit policy for dramatic decrease in carjackings.” This is a story about Milwaukee’s quest to reduce joyriding and stolen vehicles. It is an honorable mission, but officials are using a seriously flawed and incredibly deadly battle plan.
Is it not true that carjackings were already declining under the former, safer pursuit policy, because that policy specifically did permit pursuits of carjackers?
Almost all of Milwaukee’s 2018 pursuit-related deaths and many injuries were as a direct result of MPD’s new, weakened policy that permits dangerous high-speed chases for traffic offenses. Yet it would appear that this new policy’s only actual results are many more dangerous chases, more innocent bystander deaths and injuries, and even an officer’s death – virtually all for non-violent felony pursuits.
Fox story referenced a critical statistic. “In 2017, there were 386 pursuits. As of Dec. 6, 2018, there had been more than 800.” These stats indicate MPD will conduct over 900 pursuits in 2018. Officers and innocent citizens were placed in danger 500 times more in 2018 than in 2017. How can this be acceptable to anyone?
Milwaukee residents and visitors to the city have a very real reason to be frightened. Think about it: These stats represent an average of 18 life-endangering pursuits per week, and that does not include the many pursuits started in surrounding jurisdictions which later cross into Milwaukee.
So, I ask you sir, “What is the price, in human life and suffering, that Milwaukee is willing to pay to apprehend speeders, other non-violent felony driving violators and stolen vehicles?”
I also ask you another critical question. “What happens to those who are apprehended under this revised and dangerous policy?” I contend that the answer is no different than under the previous MPD administration’s more restrictive and safer pursuit policies – not enough.
There are many other questions you should be asking and answering.
Based on 18 pursuits per day, do you REALLY BELIEVE this new policy is working?
Does the DA ever charge for “felony eluding?” I haven’t heard anything about that.
What happens to apprehended car thieves?
Are all of these “dangerous criminals” being convicted?
Are these criminals ultimately serving any jail time, or simply being released back onto the streets 48 hours after their apprehension?
How many stolen-vehicle pursuits end in the stolen vehicle being totaled or damaged anyway?
With an obscenely high 900 pursuits in 2018, have you consider comparing Milwaukee with other major cities? I am willing to bet that such a study will show Milwaukee is wildly out of statistical norms.
If this greatly weakened pursuit policy is actually working, shouldn’t pursuits be declining, not rising like a SpaceX rocket?
And, if this policy was actually working, shouldn’t pursuit-related deaths and injuries be declining? That is obviously NOT the case.
In the New Year’s Eve pursuit, both the old and new policies would have authorized the initiation of a pursuit. But there are still questions even in this case.
Was policy followed once the pursuit exceeded 80mph on city streets?
At what point should the safety of citizens have been deemed more important (by the pursuing officers and their command) than the desire for immediate apprehension of this suspect?
Did any of the pursuing officers have MPD’s already-deployed GPS technology? That would have allowed a tag and follow-safely scenario.
Finally, consider this:
If that little girl had been a hostage held in a building, she likely would have been freed during MPD’s hostage negotiations. But there is no negotiating at 90 mph, just sudden and unnecessary death.
If officers had shot and killed as many people as have died in Milwaukee’s 2018 pursuits, you and city alderpersons would be demanding investigations, changes, and corrective actions. Yet, because these deaths were caused by 3,000-pound bullets and not those fired from guns, there is a deafening silence from city officials.
There is no dishonor for public officials to reassess policies that are not working. In fact, that is an obligation. Yet I contend, for contentious political reasons, Milwaukee officials are conveniently ignoring the facts and are forgetting those killed and injured in these 2018 chases.
These people, their stories, their families and their friends simply end up as collateral damage, forgotten before the wreckage is swept from the street.
But I do not forget. Ever. It’s personal for me; and has been since my son was killed in an equally unnecessary police chase.
Innocents are already killed too often in violent felony situations. Unnecessary bystander deaths as a result of non-violent felony chases makes it even more critical that Milwaukee return to a safer, violent felony-only pursuit policy.
If you missed the daily carnage reports, here are several truly horrible 2018 consequences caused by Milwaukee’s weakened pursuit policies.
Milwaukee police officer Charles Irvine killed. LINK
Other major cities invest in training and technology to reduce pursuits and still catch criminals. Milwaukee already has an excellent start using technology that will reduce the need for unnecessary pursuits. As I understand, the original MPD 2018 budget had additional funds allocated to equip even more police vehicles with GPS technology. Did they take advantage of this?
Unless saner minds prevail, there will most certainly be more Milwaukee police chase deaths, injuries and the lawsuits that will follow.
Mayor, you and I both know that Milwaukee CAN do better. Milwaukee MUST do better. Much better. But it takes a committed and courageous leader to drive such a change. I truly hope that you are such a leader.
Wishing Milwaukee a significantly safer 2019.
Pursuit For Change
adminAn Open Letter to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett
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 email@example.com. 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.
NBC Boston 2018 Police Pursuit Investigative Stories
A note from Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
August 17, 2018
I’m driving across Ohio on Interstate 80 and my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number, so I ignore the call. Several minutes later my phone signals that I have an email. And that’s how this most recent NBC news story came about.
Reporter Ally Donnelly and a team of NBC Boston investigative journalists asked if I could be available for a story they were working on. They also asked to be connected to Kate.
The request came as a result of yet anotherhorrible and unnecessary police pursuit death. This time, a new father was coming home from his first visit with his newborn daughter in the hospital. He was struck by someone fleeing police.
Ally Donnelly, Danielle Waugh and Ken Tompkins were each involved with my interviews. Danielle and Ken drove to Gardiner, Maine to meet with me. Ally met with Kate at the site of Paul’s death. There are also videos about training and technology, the key to saving lives.
Below are the stories and videos.
Victims, Police Want More Training and Funding to Reduce Risk of Police Pursuits
We are constantly seeing examples of police pursuing suspects in vehicles. Many of these pursuits are unavoidable, but there is an inherent risk to the public as vehicles weave through neighborhoods or reach speeds of more than 100 mph on highways. Here’s a look at some notable police chases from around the country.
(Published Friday, Aug. 10, 2018)
The Mashpee crash opened old wounds for families like the Farrises and the Hoyts. Victims of crashes that result from police pursuits, their families, and police themselves say that a lack of training, funding and scrutiny of pursuits is putting everyone at risk.
According to the State Police report of Farris’ crash, Trooper Joseph Kalil spotted a black Mercury SUV make an illegal U-turn on Route 16 in Everett. Kalil flipped on his lights and tried to pull over the driver, but he took off.
Kalil chased, following the SUV into the densely populated residential streets in Medford and Somerville.
The driver, Javier Morales, turned off College Avenue onto Kidder Avenue, where he crashed into the cab carrying Farris and Hoyt at the intersection with Highland Road.
“There should be no reason to have a chase here,” Hoyt said, revisiting the intersection this month with a reporter. “It just blows your mind.”
Jon Farris agrees.
“If I had been told that they were pursuing someone who shot somebody, had raped somebody, truly a violent felon, Paul would still be dead. I would still be heartbroken. But I would understand that,” Farris said. “The fact that a guy made an illegal U-turn and then ran from police, ultimately we found out that he just didn’t have a driver’s license. He was running because he was afraid he was going to go to jail, which he would have. But that made no sense to me. And so Paul’s dead and in my mind, there’s zero reason.”
Mashpee police are continuing to investigate a crash that killed three people last month. Police pursued an erratic driver who failed to stop. He ended up crashing head on into an SUV driven by a new father on his way home from the hospital. That crash has stirred difficult memories for victims and families of other police pursuit crashes. They tel…Read more
(Published Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018)
Fred Leland, a retired Walpole police lieutenant who trains police in pursuit conduct, said cops “live in the gray” of unknowns and potential danger when deciding in the heat of the moment whether to pursue a driver speeding away.
“What if I say, ‘You know what it’s not that serious I’m gonna let him go,’ and then he goes down the street and hits somebody anyway?” he said.
Despite the media spotlight on dramatic pursuits, like one a month ago in Las Vegas where an officer returned fire through his own windshield at a fleeing vehicle he knew held dangerous felons, most attempted stops are more mundane.
According to the Department of Justice, two-thirds of pursuits begin, like the crashes in Somerville and Mashpee, with a traffic violation: speeding, erratic driving or a suspended license.
And for police, the chase itself is often a trial by fire. Leland said local departments do not get enough training, and real-world pursuits are not common for a given officer.
“We don’t have much experience in pursuits,” Leland said. “I know we’re the police and you see them on television and you think, ‘Oh you do them all the time.’ But no, we don’t.”
Officers get 48 hours of driving training when they first join the police academy. Pursuits are part of it, but what happens after that depends on their department.
“Some places do more, some places do less,” said Steve Wojnar, chief of the Dudley Police Department and president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.
He said all departments have written pursuit policies, but like the situations officers face, none are the same. And he agreed that training officers in pursuits should be mandatory.
“You never know exactly what it’s going to be like. You’re going to constantly reassess and re-evaluate the situation,” he said. “How are you going to function under a stressful situation? Are you going to be able to react? Are you going to be able to react properly?
But, as always, the obstacle for cash-strapped departments is paying for it.
“Training is the last thing to be funded and the first thing to be cut when there’s problems and that’s bad,” Leland said.
Bad, too, for a father who lost a son over an illegal U-turn.
“I don’t want other people to have to go through it. I shouldn’t have to be crying every other day when I’m mowing the lawn. It’s horrible,” Farris said.
Farris has been pushing federal legislation that would require departments to track pursuits and would fund more training. He also favors policies that would restrict when officers can pursue to when the officer knows he is chasing a violent felon.
Wojnar hopes training money could also come from the local police training bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed last week.
Training and Technology Can Reduce Police Pursuits, But Funding Is Lacking
Published at 7:44 PM EDT on Aug 10, 2018 | Updated at 11:45 PM EDT on Aug 10, 2018
Some police departments in Massachusetts are re-evaluating their policies or looking for ways to avoid high-speed chases altogether to minimize fatal crashes and severe injuries.
But while many police chiefs agree that training and new devices can help reduce casualties in police pursuits, expensive technological tools and underfunded training budgets inhibit cash-strapped local departments from making changes.
“But we’re not going to chase it at 100 miles per hour, or we’re not going to have people giving themselves a potential for danger just for a person that was stopped for a red light,” Moore said.
Specific training is not required for pursuits like it is for firearms or Tasers. Each department sets its own policy on pursuits where officers and usually supervisors weigh the reason for the initial stop against the risk to the public if they chase. Most pursuits start over a minor traffic violation.
Officer Derek Licata, the Methuen department’s training coordinator, said training is critical because officers in that instant, or any high-stress situation, goes “instantly into fight or flight mode.”
“It can actually sometimes cause you to lose focus of what you’re doing, kind of end up getting tunnel vision and not really focusing on the big picture,” he said.
According to federal data, about one person is killed each day in police pursuits across the country. Between 1982 and 2016, 225 people have been killed during police pursuits in Massachusetts, about a third innocent bystanders.
Three people in Barnstable were killed late last month, including a new father coming home from the hospital.
That chase started after a driver refused to pull over in Mashpee, and the officer gave chase along Route 28. The driver crashed head-on into an SUV carrying the new father, a Marine. The Marine, the driver, and the driver’s girlfriend all died in the crash.
“Nobody wants that to happen. Nobody went out with the intent of that happening,” said Fred Leland, a retired police lieutenant from Walpole who now consults with departments on training.
Leland said local departments need more training in how and when to chase. But in the heat of the moment, when an officer hears of a speeding, erratic driver blowing through stop signs, he knows the officer thinks: “Danger. I think this guy’s putting people in danger.”
Methuen has not had to deploy its tracking device, officers there said. And they intend for the system to obviate the need for high-speed pursuits in the city from now on.
“The days of people just chasing cars, for us, they’re over,” Moore said. “We don’t look forward to that and we’re certainly not trained or encouraged to do it.”
Multiple Massachusetts police chiefs told NBC10 Boston they need more funding to buy technology like StarChase and to train officers.
But they are also calling on lawmakers to dramatically increase the penalty for failing to stop for police. They think making it a felony would greatly reduce the number of people who flee.
Currently, failing to stop for police is a $100 fine.
adminNBC Boston 2018 Police Pursuit Investigative Stories
Over the last six months, the WCPO I-team has collected records from 40 different police departments and reviewed thousands of disciplinary cases involving officers. Our motives are simple: We want to make sure the people who protect us and enforce our laws are worthy of the high level of trust the public gives them. Read more about this project and why we are doing it here.
SHARONVILLE, Ohio — Cynthia Kennedy, of Liberty Township, was driving along Sharon Road on July 4, 2015, when a speeding vehicle slammed into her car.
“It was very scary for me,” Kennedy said in an interview with the WCPO I-Team. “I did see a car coming very fast, and then I saw policce lights behind it. I saw them coming, and I tried to shift back, but the car wouldn’t move, and he came so fast that I couldn’t get the car in gear.
“It was very traumatic.”
According to a Sharonville police officer’s report, the crash marked the end of a two-and-a-half minute high-speed chase along Interstate 75 around 6:30 p.m. The chase began after an officer observed then 33-year-old Jeremy Baker operating his vehicle at speeds approaching 120 miles per hour.
The I-Team reviewed records from 40 police departments serving the Tri-State, focusing on the agencies in seven metro area counties in Ohio and Kentucky. Reporters studied thousands of incidents involving police in large and small law enforcement agencies to see how police officers are held accountable.
We weren’t sure what we would find when we began collecting these records, but our goal was making sure the public was aware of how law enforcement agencies handle discipline.
Those records showed that guidelines for high-speed pursuits of suspects can be broad and sometimes inconsistent across jurisdictions.
I-Team reporters also found that even when a department has a policy against chasing suspects at high speeds, some departments do not consistently discipline offending officers.
It’s a regional issue that Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said needs fixing.
“I think we should all be on the same page, not only in pursuits, but in most of the things we do,” he told WCPO. “It’s certainly something that I’m willing to be a part of and even take the leadership on to see if we can have a more uniform policy in the region.”
‘Consistent with policy’?
Kennedy, her passenger, and Baker recovered from their injuries, but it could have been a far more tragic story: Law enforcement leaders view emergency vehicular pursuits as a huge safety threat.
“I think vehicle pursuits are one of the most dangerous activities that our officers engage in,” Isaac told the I-Team. “Not only for themselves, but for the community at large.”
Tulsa Police Maj. Travis Yates, who runs a national pursuit-training academy, told USA Today the same thing: “A pursuit is probably the most unique and dangerous job law enforcement can do.
“We’re not taking it seriously enough because we think that one day of training that an officer may have gotten in their academy is going to take effect 10 years later when a pursuit begins,” he said. “Most officers will never fire their firearms ever, but we train one to four times a year” on how to fire guns.
Police ultimately charged Baker with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, failure to control a vehicle and excessive speed, among other charges.
None of the three officers involved in the chase faced any sort of disciplinary action.
The internal review documents above include notes indicating the officers were traveling at speeds above 100 miles per hour and weaving through traffic while pursuing Baker. It also indicates an officer ran a red light at more than 50 miles per hour, and that one of the squad cars involved was in pursuit with its emergency lights on, but not its siren.
When it comes to speed, the Sharonville Police Department does not specify a certain speed at which pursuing officers need to stand down. The policy reads:
“When a motor vehicle pursuit exposes any officer, member of the public or suspect to unnecessary risk, then the pursuit is inconsistent with the policy of the Sharonville Police Department and should be terminated.”
The policy also specifies that officers in a pursuit must come to “a controlled slow/stop before proceeding under a red light,” but does not further define the term “controlled slow/stop.” As for the lights and siren — they’re a must.
Of the 30 police pursuit policies WCPO obtained, the most common criteria dictating officers’ best practices are:
According to Sharonville Police Lt. Jim Nesbit, the review of Baker’s pursuit found nothing that didn’t fit departmental policy.
“In the review of the pursuits, as I understand it, (the officers’ actions) were found consistent with policy that was in place at the time,” Nesbit told the I-Team.
The crash still haunting Kennedy was one of the eight pursuits involving Sharonville officers in 2015. In half of those pursuits, Sharonville officers hit speeds of at least 110 miles per hour. Five of those eight pursuits ended in crashes.
Out of those crashes, the Sharonville department hasn’t disciplined any officers involved in pursuits during the last three years, WCPO’s research indicates.
Across the Tri-State, law enforcement agencies have 44 pursuit policy violations on record since 2013. Discipline ranged from a verbal warning to additional training to — in rare instances — suspension.
Some cases involved officers speeding without their lights and sirens activated, or failing to end a pursuit when they were ordered to do so. In other cases, supervisors got in trouble because they didn’t intervene when there was was a pursuit violation under their command. And sometimes, officers put their own lives at risk by not wearing a seat belt during a high-speed chase, according to police documents.
One case involved a Butler County dispatcher who “froze-up” when a deputy went on a pursuit; other dispatchers had to take over.
Of the 44 reported policy violations, here’s a breakdown of the disciplinary measures taken:
Those violations came from these jurisdictions:
Blue Ash PD
Butler County Sheriff’s Office
Delhi Township PD
Fort Wright PD
Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office
Taylor Mill PD
Warren County Sheriff’s Office
Nesbit stressed the importance of officers’ discretion and decision-making in helping avoid these chase scenarios.
“Their good judgment has to come into play when they are in the field,” he said. “Our officers have exhibited good judgment.”
But even in Sharonville’s one pursuit so far this year, an officer drove more than 100 miles per hour on wet pavement. The detailed review noted excessive speed and wet road conditions, but the officer still wasn’t disciplined.
Instead, the officer went through what Nesbit called “corrective measures.”
“Corrective measures were taken to make sure that his decision-making was consistent with our policy and our best practices placing public safety as the number one priority,” Nesbit said.
Those corrective measures did not include a written reprimand or a suspension, nor was the incident recorded as a violation.
Sharonville PD has since revised its policies regarding vehicle pursuits and undid a requirement that officers always pursue if the driver is a felony suspect, even across state lines.
Several police chiefs told the I-Team that inconsistent discipline reflects the inconsistent expectations of officers in pursuits: Some departments never pursue. Some only pursue if the subject is suspected on a felony charge. Some pursue for something as minor as a traffic violation. Some have restrictions on weather or road conditions.
Some have speed limits. Some don’t.
Another common phrase in police pursuit policies: “per the officer’s judgment.”
Having broad language in policy makes it difficult to enforce and discipline violating officers, said Phil Stinson, associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University. Stinson has researched police practices for decades, and said some pursuit policies are strict, while others allow considerable leeway for officers.
“If there’s no written policy or if the policy is very vague, you’re not going to have much in the way of discipline,” Stinson told the I-Team.
Pursuits’ lasting impact
For Kennedy, just being in a car still gives her anxiety, two years after the crash.
“I get chest pains sometimes,” she told the I-Team. “It’s caused a lot of emotional stress for me.”
Kennedy is part of the roughly 30 percent of people involved in police pursuit collisions nationwide who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which says hundreds of Americans die each year in police pursuits.
Meantime, she took the I-Team to the scene of her crash hoping to convince police to slow down and reconsider the urge to race to justice.
“I have, I guess you could say, a little post-traumatic stress from being hit,” she said. “There’s other means of pursuing an individual rather than a high-speed pursuit and endangering others.”
WCPO Web Editor Joe Rosemeyer and freelance journalists Laura Consolo, Kevin Eigelbach, Hannah Hagedorn and Roxanna Swift, contributed to this report.
adminIf pursuits are one of police’s most ‘dangerous activities,’ should policies be stricter?
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.”
Vehicular chases and police pursuit policies are issues often left on the back burner until a bystander or officer is injured or killed. I know this all too well.
While recently speaking to a group of Madison Police Department (WI) recruits, I was once again overcome with emotion remembering why I began this mission to reduce police pursuits for non-violent felonies. My son, Paul, a 23-year-old innocent bystander, was killed during a police chase into a city with a very restrictive policy. My presentation to these Madison recruits was part of my Pursuit For Change work (PursuitForChange.org) in conjunction with the Below100 initiative (Below100.org), a campaign to reduce preventable law enforcement officer line of duty deaths.
After my recruit presentation, as well as after other presentations to more experienced LEOs, many officers approached me to offer thanks for sharing my story. These officers get it; they understand my heart ache. They understand why I’m there, and why I dedicate so much effort to save lives of officers and bystanders like Paul.
Jon Farris presenting to Madison Police Department (WI) recruits
After several years as Chairman of the Board for the national non-profit, PursuitSAFETY, I made a decision to move in a slightly different direction. I wanted to provide information and value to LEOs across the country. I wanted to share my story directly with legislators in Washington. I wanted to find additional funding for LEO’s use of pursuit reduction technologies and increased officer driving training. I wanted to implement mandatory tracking for all police chase-related deaths and injuries. And finally, I wanted to work toward safer and more consistent pursuit policies. So, as a result, I established Pursuit For Change.
Scores of high-speed police pursuits occur daily and there is definitely no shortage of media coverage. The more brazen and deadly the pursuit, the more news coverage it gets. Society sensationalizes police pursuits, and regardless of the horrific consequences, the media feeds their thirst to be entertained.In-car videos of dangerous stunts at high speeds followed by pictures of marred vehicles are exactly the type of coverage affecting the public’s mindset. People have become desensitized to police chases; for the most part, they are unaware of the tragic effects of the high-speed pursuits they watch.
Police pursuits kill an average of one person each day, according to the National Institute of Justice statistics. While the majority of pursuit-related deaths are suspects, an innocent bystander is killed every three days and a law enforcement officer is killed every six weeks. Even without mandatory reporting for pursuit-related deaths and injuries, data from an FBI report stated that thousands of people are injured in police chases every year.
Taken at a state level, the numbers look just as grim. An NBC Los Angeles report shed light on the prevalence of police pursuit-related injuries in the state of California. Between 2002 and 2012, over 10,000 people were injured in police chases, with 321 ending as fatalities. In 2011 alone, pursuits in California resulted in 927 injuries and 33 deaths. Included in those deaths were eight bystanders and one police officer. Other states have equally unacceptable results.
The toll from pursuits is not only measured in lives. A 2016 NBC investigation of Chicago-area pursuits found that taxpayers paid out over $95 million in civil settlements and judgments stemming from 24 separate lawsuits over a 10-year period. That same report counted nearly a dozen more pending lawsuits that had not been settled. So it is realistic to estimate that the sum of pursuit-related settlements in the Chicago area will exceed $100 million over a 10-year period. How many more officers and equipment could be funded by sums such as this?
Keep in mind that these police chase numbers are gathered without any rigorous Federal system in place to mandatorily report pursuit-related injuries, deaths and economic damages. From other studies completed, it is reasonable to predict that actual numbers are significantly higher. A standardized system for reporting pursuit-related injuries, deaths, and damages would be monumental in analyzing and significantly reducing those avoidable pursuits resulting in so much loss and suffering.
Police pursuits with deadly outcomes are nothing new; for many years, LEO and bystander lives have been lost and forever changed as a result. Police chases are a national issue with staggering local effects, yet the problem has largely fallen on deaf ears.
My son died during a high-speed police chase in 2007. Paul and his girlfriend Katelyn were headed home when an SUV crashed into the taxicab in which they were passengers. Paul and the cab driver, Walid Chahine, died; Katelyn sustained serious, life-altering injuries. This double fatality police pursuit began over a misdemeanor traffic violation – when the driver of the SUV made an illegal U-turn.
Paul and Katelyn
Question: Is it worth risking innocent bystander lives and police officer lives over minor traffic violations such as failing to yield at a stop sign or an illegal U-turn?
That’s tough to answer because officers do have a duty to enforce the law, but while protecting citizens. Achieving both obligations – enforcement and protection – is extremely challenging. Common sense dictates that engaging in any pursuit should be limited to only the most dangerous and violent offenders. In the heat of the moment that can be a difficult decision for the officer unless their EVO pursuit policy is clear, concise and unambiguous. Most EVO and pursuit policies that I have reviewed do not meet these standards.
At the time of Paul’s death, many people were affected. My neighbor and good friend, Tim Dolan, was one of those.
“While in office, lowering violent crimes and protecting the citizens of Minneapolis was a primary focus,” said retired Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan. “The greatest risk of serious injuries to police and the public come from police chases or pursuits. This is a national issue. I strongly believe in what Jon is doing; I hope agencies take notice and start working to change their policies around pursuits.” – Tim Dolan, Chief of Police (Ret.), Minneapolis, MN
Pursuit Reduction Technology
There are alternatives to chasing. Examples include GPS tracking technology, driving simulator training, emergency smartphone alerts to drivers in the vicinity of an active pursuit, and other measures. Each of these options can be used to apprehend suspects while reducing the likelihood of civilian or officer injuries or deaths.
I have been working tirelessly to find alternatives that will limit pursuits for all but the most heinous of violent crimes. Technology is now a reality and police departments across the country are beginning to consider this in conjunction with stricter policies for their officers.
Unlike many advocates, I am not at odds with law enforcement. Rather, I understand that we have a common goal. I truly appreciate the challenge that law enforcement officers face. I provide information and support relating to reducing chases and making apprehending these criminals safer. I speak for many who have been adversely impacted by a police pursuit, to raise attention to the issue and to highlight the need for alternatives to high-speed pursuits for non-violent crimes.
No family should endure the lifetime pain caused by an avoidable disaster. I hope to minimize incidents when split-second decisions and adrenaline-fueled moments can end tragically, as it did for my Paul.
Pursuit for Change
Our goal is twofold: protect innocent civilians’ lives and protect officer lives. To accomplish this mission, I created Pursuit for Change, a national police pursuit advocacy group. The focus of Pursuit for Change is to push policy, legislation, technology and training to save innocent citizen and police officer lives. Rational pursuit policies coupled with advanced pursuit management technologies and increased training will decrease pursuit-related deaths and injuries.
The reality is that implementing these changes can be just that simple. Although increased training and advanced technologies are proven to reduce the risks involved in pursuits, many law enforcement agencies are unable to acquire necessary equipment because of budgetary constraints. Pursuit for Change is working with members of Congress to help police departments and law enforcement agencies receive necessary funding to adopt safer tactics.
Pursuit for Change is lobbying for a federally funded program for pursuit reduction technology and LEO driving training. Our efforts have united Senate and House representatives on both sides of the aisle.
Our work is also at the local level. My meetings with city and state law enforcement agencies are examples of affecting change at the source. Pursuit for Change is gearing up to work with even more agencies and departments to raise awareness and pursue meaningful change.
Future of Police Pursuits
Imagine a world where every day one more person’s life is saved, every three days one more innocent bystander’s life is saved, and every six weeks one police officer’s life is saved. In this world, police departments have adopted the latest and safest technologies with officer training and internal policies to match. This is a world in which dangerous chases are limited to the most extreme circumstances.
The ideal situation, of course, is to get bad guys off the streets without harming anyone else in the process. The better equipped and trained departments are, the more often they apprehend criminals without incident. We all need to remember that a LEO’s goal and obligation is to carry out their duty to protect and serve while ensuring the safety of bystanders, other officers and themselves.
Saving lives begins with awareness and education. Through the grief of thousands of anguished families and friends, we must support law enforcement while finding and implementing options other than chasing every runner. Officers put their lives on the line every day. It’s up to their command to find every possible means to reduce these risks. Increased training and enhanced technologies will most certainly reduce avoidable outcomes that adversely affect communities and law enforcement agencies alike.
The time is now to prevent other families, innocent bystanders, and police officers from having to suffer as my family has from easily preventable tragedies.
My journey started with horrible sadness and anger. But I continue to focus those emotions into something beneficial and desperately needed for society. I have focused my sadness into an appreciation for the challenges faced by law enforcement. However, I will continue to drive home my message that there are altogether way too many unnecessary pursuits, and LEOs must reassess their direction and policies.
I have focused my pain and heartache into a relentless, but positive pursuit for change.
Jonathan Farris is founder and Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change, an advocacy working to change federal and local pursuit policies by seeking legislation to more effectively track and manage dangerous police chases and helping law enforcement implement pursuit reduction technology. Learn more at pursuitforchange.org.
adminReducing police pursuits while supporting LEO’s
We know there are so many safer means for apprehending drivers who flee from police. We need law enforcement to embrace new technology and safer tactics.
POLICE PURSUIT STARTS IN LEHI, ENDS WITH ROLLOVER OF BLUFFDALE OFFICER’S AUTO
Author Deanna Wagner
30 April, 2017
A Bluffdale police officer suffered minor injuries after his auto crashed and rolled on Interstate 15 in Sandy during a vehicle chase on Saturday.
Sgt. Todd Royce of the Utah Highway Patrol said the pursuit began in Lehi and the suspect fled north on I-15 at high speeds.
Only minor injuries for the Bluffdale officer. “But it looks like the Bluffdale officer rolled down through a lower area of I-15 and ended up being on his top in the emergency lane”.
The Bluffdale officer, who Royce said only suffered minor injuries, was transported to a hospital as a precautionary measure. It was not clear why police initially attempted to stop the vehicle. And we don’t know exactly what happened.
The suspect is still outstanding, he said, but Lehi police believe they know who the suspect is and they are now looking for him.
The pursuit was terminated immediately after the crash in order to render aid to the Bluffdale officer.
New police tech looks like something from a Batman movie
BYRON, GEORGIA (WCIV) —
by Jon Bruce
Thursday, February 2nd 2017
High speed police chases are among the most dangerous circumstances a law enforcement officer can face. They pose a risk not just for officers and suspects but even innocent people like your family.
Pursuits routinely reach speeds of 100 miles per hour and can end in disaster.
ABC News 4 recently traveled to a small town in Georgia where officers are using a new crime fighting tool to take danger and speed out of the equation.
American audiences for years have tuned to footage of high speed chases playing out on the news. Drivers eager to evade capture will swerve, speed and narrowly miss other cars – crossing lanes and putting the lives of other motorists in danger.
Byron, Georgia Police Chief Wesley Cannon has felt the blood-rushing, adrenaline-pumping thrill and danger of a high speed chase.
“Car chases, I believe are the second biggest danger, but it’s not just a danger for us,” Cannon said. “It’s a danger for every citizen in our community. And a danger to the offender we are chasing.”
The website www.pursuitforchange.org is a national database that tracks chase related fatalities. According to their records, 385 people were killed as a result of police chases in 2014. More than 70 of those people were not even involved with a crime, just folks in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As 23-year veteran of the police force in a town with a long stretch of interstate just outside of Macon, Cannon knew something had to be done to keep those bad guys in check without putting the lives of those he has sworn to protect in danger.
For Byron, the solution came on a chance encounter at a police conference hundreds of miles away in Philadelphia. It was there Chief Cannon first saw the StarChase Pursuit Management System.
StarChase’s website lists the new technology as a tool that “provides pursuit management and GPS tracking technology to public safety and government agencies worldwide. Our patented force multiplying technology empowers law enforcement, mitigates risk and protects communities.”
The StarChase system features a fixed air cannon mounted onto the front of a law enforcement vehicle. It uses a laser guided targeting system to lock onto the suspect vehicle. When a Law enforcement officer is “locked on” StarChase fires a plastic container containing a GPS tracking device.
A strong, non-corrosive adhesive allows the canister to stick onto the fleeing car, and most times a suspect will not even be able to hear it attach.
Sure, it sounds like an expensive tool right out of an action movie. Chief Cannon admits he was immediately intrigued. As luck would have it, his department won a raffle at the convention. The prize – a StarChase system.
“We are always looking at ways to take a danger out of our line of work and make things safer, Cannon said. “And this system to me covers every bit of that when it comes to car chases.”
To say he was impressed is an understatement.
Three years later, StarChase systems are equipped in almost every Bryon, Georgia police car. And Cannon is working to outfit the rest of his fleet.
“I believe that this system should be in every car, in every police car in every department nationwide. I think it’s as necessary as a light bar, a cage, a radar, a radio, as a gun, as a Taser. To me, it is that important to have, Chief Cannon said.
Once tagged, law enforcement officers and dispatchers are able to track the GPS signature via their computers. They can even share the location with neighboring communities and other departments. StarChase representatives say the battery on each tracker lasts about eight hours.
Cannon says the results have been simply astounding. Once the fleeing car has been tagged, his officers will turn off their blue lights and slow down. Once the suspect no longer sees an officer behind, that person will instinctively begin to slow down as the escape reflex and adrenaline fade.
“The officers are able to tag the vehicle and back off immediately,” he said. “Just within miles of them backing off you can see the speed of the vehicle they were chasing go from 100 mph to 90 to 80 to 70 to 60 to 50 and then jump off the interstate then stop.”
Then Byron police officers can simply follow the suspect via their GPS signal until they stop.
“At some point in time everyone is going to have to stop,” he said. “Whether it’s because they want to hide, run out of gas, they are going to stop, they were able to converge on them and place him in custody without incident.”
But in Byron, the chief says StarChase came with an added bonus — a big drop in crime.
“We have been hearing it on the street,” Cannon said. ”They’ve got that GPS gun, you better watch out.”
And that’s exactly why Byron’s top cop says he instructs his officers to be transparent with the new technology.
“I want our criminal’s to know what we have in our arsenals to catch them, he said.” So don’t come to Bryon and commit a crime because if you do and we get behind you we will catch you.”
StarChase is in use at over 100 departments across America and Canada.
The launchers themselves even come with a heating component, which is used to prevent the adhesive from freezing – meaning StarChase can be used in any weather.
StarChase may help reduce the danger that high speed chases create, but it doesn’t take it away completely. Officers, troopers, or deputies still need to get within at least 10 to 20 feet of the fleeing vehicle.
WOULD IT WORK HERE?
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon says his department saw an increase in the number of police chases in 2016. More and more people are running, and that means more chases.
In 2012, Cannon himself was involved in a high speed chase along several Lowcountry highways. Cannon eventually helped subdue the suspect off Highway 41 in Mount Pleasant.
Soon after the suspect was detained Cannon approached him while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car and slapped him. Cannon says it was a reaction to the suspect putting so many lives in danger.
That suspect it turns out, had run from police before. Sheriff Cannon said he equated the suspect’s blatant disregard for human life that day as someone standing in an intersection with a loaded pistol.
“When you are dealing with someone who is using a car as a deadly weapon, he is just as deadly if not more so, because he’s got 3,000 pounds of metal he is projecting down the highway, then someone firing a firearm,” Cannon said.
Charleston County uses StopSticks and its helicopter to track and subdue chase suspects.
Sheriff Cannon admits GPS tracking or disabling a vehicle’s electronic systems, even drones are the future in pursuit prevention.
“I think the GPS aspect could be a significant game changer,” Sheriff Cannon said. “It certainly is a way to get the information we need and allow us to back off and find a person later.”
Sheriff Cannon admits that he monitors regular testing of new products but that sometimes his hands are tied when it comes purchases, which often need county or municipal approval.
At $5,000 per unit for StarChase, Sheriff Cannon says installing them in Charleston County right now just isn’t feasible.
“I think there are some instances that would be helpful,” Cannon said. “I think it’s early in development yet. I think there is a way to go. And it’s not something that would work in every instance. But the theory of affecting the vehicle’s electronics or GPS tracking, I think will hold the key to address the issue of people running from the police.”
Chief Cannon of Byron thinks otherwise.
A department or a sheriff or a chief that has to budget for this, he said. “You can’t put a value on human life, number one. Your officers, your citizens, or even the bad guy you are chasing. $5,000 is a drop in the bucket to prevent a fatality or serious bodily injury in a car chase. Ninety percent of car chases end up in accidents. It is going to happen, and a high speed accident is a recipe for disaster and $5,000 should not be a consideration.”
Currently, no law enforcement organization in South Carolina uses the StarChase system.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol tested similar equipment but ultimately decided not to purchase it, though they would not tell ABC News 4 why.
Byron Police Chief Wesley Cannon says that he has never had to budget for a StarChase system because “lets his drug dealers pay for them” – using drug seizure money to pay for the equipment.
He hopes to outfit his entire fleet of vehicles with StarChase by the end of the year.
by JACOB TIERNEY
Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, 12:16 a.m.
The small Fawn Township Police Department doesn’t get involved in many high-speed car chases, but Chief Tim Mayberry remembers chasing down a suspect last year who was wanted in a break-in.
“It went to speeds of over 100 mph,” he said. “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t do it. It’s not worth the risk.”
There’s almost always a better, safer way to apprehend a suspect than a high-speed car chase, he said.
Mayberry plans to update the township’s pursuit policy within the next month or two, joining several local police departments taking a close look at how they handle car chases.
The issue was highlighted in November, when a man fleeing from police in North Versailles after he was pulled over for making an illegal left turn sped off and crashed into a car, killing two adults and a 2-year-old girl.
Police were considering how best to handle pursuits before the crash. The Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association regularly updates its suggested policies and revised its model pursuit policy in early 2016.
“A lot of chiefs put a lot of time and efforts into working on best practices,” said association President and Castle Shannon police Chief Kenneth Truver.
The association does not implement policies but instead drafts models and encourages local departments to adopt them.
By state law, each police department must have a policy dictating when officers should “initiate, continue and terminate a motor vehicle pursuit.”
The East Deer commissioners will discuss updating their police department’s pursuit policy at a meeting Thursday, possibly voting to adopt new guidelines based on the chiefs’ association model.
“There (are) a lot of aspects about it that are better,” commissioners Chairman Tony Taliani said. “It basically limits and reduces the situations where you would be in pursuits. Not many good things come from pursuits.”
He does not remember when East Deer’s policy was last updated but said the new model adds many new safeguards.
It lists 13 criteria that must be met for officers to start a chase and six reasons why a chase should be stopped.
It states no more than two police vehicles can be involved in a chase, and officers cannot chase suspects against the flow of traffic.
Mayberry said Fawn’s current policy largely leaves the decision of when to begin and end a chase up to officers.
“Ours is pretty simple, but it’s not as stringent as the other ones that are out there,” he said, adding that making the policy stricter could make the public safer.
Truver said he didn’t want to discuss the specifics of the association’s model policy, because publicizing the details of how officers handle police chases could allow criminals to exploit that knowledge.
“If you have bad intentions and you know what the policy is of an individual agency, you can take action to subvert the intent of that policy,” he said.
State law says departments should keep the details of their pursuit policies confidential.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala has long called on departments to update and standardize their policies.
Police should initiate a chase only in case of a violent felony or to stop an immediate threat to public safety, according to Zappala.
The North Versailles police pursuit policy says pursuits should be limited to suspects wanted for safety-threatening felonies. The driver involved in the fatal pursuit was wanted on a probation violation.
The chiefs’ association revisited its policy after the crash but decided the recently updated version was stringent enough.
Wisconsin resident Jonathan Farris started the advocacy group Pursuit for Change after his son, Paul, died in a car crash in Massachusetts in 2007. Paul was in a taxi, and the driver who hit his vehicle was being chased by police.
Pursuit for Change calls for stricter and more consistent policies nationwide, as well as better record-keeping about crashes related to police chases.
“It seems like there are way too many pursuits that could be resolved in a different way,” he said. “They can get that person another time.”
Police departments are not required to submit reports on chase-related fatalities to any government agency.
The most comprehensive recent analysis was a 2015 report by USA Today, which found 11,500 deaths in high-speed chases from 1979 to 2013, including 374 in Pennsylvania.
Henry Wiehagen, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 91, which represents officers in Allegheny County, said stricter rules are a good thing. A chase can escalate a bad situation, he said.
“You’re better off letting the individual go,” said Wiehagen, former chief of the North Braddock Police Department. “When you put that red light and that siren on, it might make him go faster.”
What’s the best kind of high-speed chase? The one that doesn’t happen, or at least the one that is over quickly.
A pursuit aid called StarChase may help the police end pursuits quickly. StarChase LLC has released the third generation of its Star Chase GPS Launcher system, and it can fool “perps” into thinking they got away from the cops.
The system works by firing “launcher barrels” that stick to the fleeing vehicle. These barrels pin a GPS signal to the suspect’s vehicle that the police can follow from inside their cruiser. The police can then follow from a safe distance, making the perps think they have given up the chase. Finally, the police can pick the right time to pin down the offenders in a safe manner and make the arrest. No more high-speed chases and the dangers to society they pose.
Each StarChase system costs about $5,000, so it isn’t cheap, and that doesn’t include the cost of the launcher barrels. Those barrels may also not stick in inclement weather, so this isn’t a fool-proof system, However, StarChase could prevent some high-speed chases from getting out of control and that’s a good thing.
adminStarChase system could help police end high-speed chases quickly