By Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change.
This Is Not Just Another Day
Every year since my son Paul was killed, on the anniversary of his death, I’ve posted a note. Perhaps on Facebook, at PaulFarris.org, at PursuitForChange.org or some other place for others to read. I suspect I’ll continue this forever.
These stories typically focus on my personal feelings and on the never-ending issue of dangerous non-violent felony police chases.
I can tell you that the anniversary of the death of a child is seared into your brain. It hurts so very much. It tears at your heart and at your soul. It never lets go. But we go on…
Paul was an innocent victim, killed during a police chase after a man running from misdemeanor traffic violation. Because of that I’ve expended years of heartache and energy telling his story to anyone who will listen. Today both Pursuit For Change and Pursuit Response continue efforts by working with law enforcement agencies and legislators. Our goals?
> SAVE LIVES. Innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers
> Reduce the number of misdemeanor and property-crime pursuits
> Develop robust and mandatory Federal tracking for all police pursuit deaths and injuries
> Help law enforcement develop more measured and significantly stricter pursuit policies for their officers
> Share new technologies that will allow for fewer pursuits while still allowing police to catch the bad guys
These goals are simple; making them happen is incredibly difficult. But this effort, too, is part of living our lives in a more meaningful way.
Happy Easter. Happy Pesach. Or perhaps, just Happy Sunday. In Madison it’s a beautiful, blue sky and sunny day.
My neurons were firing on all cylinders last night. That’s great if you’re sleeping and dreaming, but not so much when you’re awake and tossing and turning. I thought about a Linkedin request I received a few days ago. “Nancy” wanted to reconnect because she has a new job. Nancy is a friend on FB, so I’ve watched her kids grow up in photos. I wonder if they’re celebrating Easter together today.
Today many families will celebrate. Grandparents, parents, “kids” and grandkids will get to spend precious time together and give thanks for all that is important in their lives. Like these families, ours has many reasons to give thanks. One of the reasons is for the “Nancys” in our lives. Those individuals who share their kindness and love and who have helped us keep precious memories close.
The reason Nancy had my mind buzzing was a note she sent to me in May of 2007, the year that my oldest son, Paul, was killed. Nancy’s email is indelibly etched in my mind because we read it to close Paul’s memorial services in Boston and Minneapolis. And perhaps of even more importance, I’ve read it to hundreds and hundreds of law enforcement officers as we train and explain how a police pursuit decision can inexorably alter lives.
So today, I just wanted to say, “Thanks, Nancy!”
From: Nancyxxxxx@comcast.net To: Farris, Jonathan Sent: Mon, May 28, 2007 19:51:05
Hello Mr. Farris,
Please let me start by expressing my deepest sympathy for you and your family. I can’t imagine what you must be going through, really.
I knew Paul for only a short time. I interviewed him for the job he just started two weeks ago, and was amazed in every way with him…I knew before the interview was over that I had to hire him, and furthermore, I wanted him in my unit, and he did start and join my unit.
I’ve worked at MetLife Auto & Home for 23 years…I started there when I was 21. I was nothing like him when I was his age. I’ve never interviewed anyone like him. But I don’t have to tell you, he was your son.
I have 3 sons of my own, ages 5, 9 and 11. I went home after working with Paul after a few days and told my sons all about him, and how amazing this “new guy” was, and how inspired I was by him, and how lucky they would be to grow up to be like him. He was just perfect – smart, motivated, outgoing, handsome, talented, friendly…everything a 23 year old could possibly be. Yes, I only knew him two weeks, but he really touched me, and I am deeply saddened by this.
I didn’t know how to contact you, since the office was closed for the holiday, so I found Cathy C through Google. She gave me your cell phone number, too, but honestly, I could not speak to you right now without breaking down. I am interested in any arrangements that will be made, and I will, of course notify the proper contacts in the Human Resources Dept to contact you. Again, I am so sorry for your and your family’s loss. If you need to reach me, my work number is 800-854-xxxx. My cell # is 603-xxx-xxxx, and my work email is firstname.lastname@example.org. This is my home email, which you can also use.
If there is absolutely anything I can do for you, please let me know, anything.
During February and March of 2018, Jonathan Farris wrote a short editorial / opinion piece. This was sent to several newspapers, both national and local. As of today, none of these opinion pieces have been published.
As a result, we will post the information at the PFC website and work our communications through social media accounts.
Opinion: Criminals’ Photos Should Not Be Included In News Stories
Let me be brief.
People keep killing innocent citizens – every day and in so many different ways. Each day we read and view these stories and mentally live through the tragedy faced by those impacted people.
Sadly, however, even our finest media sources raise too many criminals to celebrity status – by posting their photos, over and over and over.
For example, why in the world should the face of shooter Nikolas Cruz be highlighted in nearly every newspaper and magazine and television news show? Doesn’t that simply elevate him hero status for other confused souls? I certainly have no need to ever see his face.
Personally, every single day, I read about drivers arrested for running from police. And regularly these pursuits injure and kill innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers. Yet, way too often, the criminals’ photos lead the story. Why?
Please keep up your terrific reporting. The narrative is important. But have the guts to stop displaying photographs and videos of the criminals, because these people are not the ones who deserve recognition and certainly do not deserve to be shown.
Jonathan Farris is founder and Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change, an advocacy working to change federal and local pursuit policies to reduce innocent bystander and LEO deaths and injuries. Mr Farris’ oldest son was an innocent victim killed in a high speed pursuit in 2007. Learn more at www.pursuitforchange.org.
adminCriminals’ Photos Should Not Be Included In News Stories
There are deadly #PoliceChase deaths across the world. This is a well done segment by the hosts of The AM Show at Newshub in New Zealand. @NewshubNZ@TheAMShowNZ. Looking for solutions / options and not tossing out blame. #PursuitReductionTech and more driving training WILL help @Pursuit4Change@PursuitResponse
Police not to blame for pursuit deaths – union
12/03/2018 Dan Satherley
Between October 2016 and September last year, seven deaths and 552 crashes were recorded out of around 3600 pursuits.
The Police Association says police aren’t to blame for the deaths of three people in a pursuit that ended in a crash on Sunday.
Around 5:40am, police tried to stop a car in Richmond, south of Nelson. A six-kilometre chase ended in tragedy when the fleeing vehicle crossed the centre line, crashing into a vehicle coming the other way.
“You never overtake on the top of Burke’s Bank because you can’t see what’s on the other side,” Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne told The AM Show on Monday.
Two of the dead were in the fleeing vehicle, the third a member of the public. Police Association president Chris Cahill told The AM Show police can’t be held responsible for the deaths.
“It isn’t the police chasing that’s causing these deaths – it’s the manner of the driving and the people failing to stop. They are the people responsible – not the police officers.”
Det Insp Cahill said the existing rules are “very strict”.
“When a pursuit or fleeing driver incident starts, you immediately have to call through to the communications centre. They take control of the decision-making – you explain the conditions on the road, the speed, the amount of traffic, also that the reason the fleeing driver has taken off in the first place. “The communicator in the comms centre is the decision-maker as to whether that continues or not.
“It takes it away from the police officer in the car who may get tunnel vision, who may have the adrenalin rush going on.”
Police have continually update the comms person on what’s happening. They wouldn’t back a ban on pursuits without “considerable research” first, but doubt it would work.
Det Insp Cahill says Queensland’s restrictive rules on pursuits have resulted in “a lot of young people racing around all over the show, thinking they can get away with it”.
“Do you really think it would be safe just to let people drive on the roads at any speed they want, as drunk as they want, and the police are just going to wave them by? I don’t think the public would let that happen.”
And previous experiments in New Zealand haven’t worked either, he says.
“They started driving the wrong way down the motorway, things like that, ramming into police vehicles, knowing the police would stop. We need to be really careful thinking a ban would be all our answers.”
Det Insp Cahill says penalties need to be increased for drivers who fail to stop.
“If you’re drink driving and you know you’re going to get no further penalty if you fail to stop, what’s the incentive to stop? You need to know if you don’t stop your car is going to be taken… you’re going to face terms of imprisonment.”
Mr Kempthorne says he backs the police, saying the blame lies with those fleeing.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful for any family or friends involved, but we’ve got to be really aware some driver behaviour on the road is really bad.”
Police are currently reviewing their chase policy, which is due to be completed later this year. Police Minister Stuart Nash said he has asked for an update on their progress.
National Party leader Simon Bridges said he’s interested to see the evidence on police chases, and is interested in what other jurisdictions have tried.
“Instinctively, I’m with the police. I don’t think you can have a situation, it would be really bad if they can’t actually make sure that people stop when they’re pursuing them. People should stop,” he told The AM Show.
“If you say police should never do this, what happens then? Does that mean everyone thinks, ‘Well, I’m not stopping. I’m gonna keep on going.'”
The road toll so far this year stands at 77 – nine more than at the same point in 2016, which was a much deadlier year on the roads than 2015.
adminPolice not to blame for pursuit deaths (New Zealand)
W.I.N. is an acronym for Life’s Most Powerful Question – What’s Important Now? Why are these three words Life’s Most Powerful Question? Because of their simplicity and their diversity. W.I.N. is a guiding principle for leadership, training, planning, decision making, personal growth and life.
X is the ‘X’ Factor; the unknown. The unknown is what exactly you will experience during this one day event that will change your life. The X also stands for the known: Xcellent speakers who will provide an Xceptional Xperience and 10X value for your investment.
This is not your normal law enforcement training event filled with long and often boring presentations. WINx is a fast paced, dynamic event with presentations that are only 18 minutes. The topics, all of which relate to the law enforcement profession will challenge you, engage you and inspire you to action.
In addition to a number of experiential surprises there will be an opportunity to explore some of the concepts in more detail by engaging the speakers in additional dialogue.
If you are happy with the status quo and are not willing to be part of the growth and evolution of the law enforcement profession then this event is not for you.
However, if you are:
Committed to being part of the growth and advancement of the law enforcement profession.
You believe that leadership is about action.
You are willing to embrace the pursuit of excellence and fight against mediocrity.
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?
Down the road in Raleigh, they found the van Erieyana was riding in on its side, and McGregory’s wrecked sedan nearby.
McGregory’s passenger, 25-year-old Shaday Taylor, lost her life, as did Erieyana.
“I can’t believe she’s not here,” Holloway-Burks said with a heavy sigh.
“One person a day dies in a police pursuit,” Jonathan Farris said when he learned about the deadly crash.
Farris is with “Pursuit for Change,” a national police pursuit victims’ advocacy group. It focuses on policy, legislation, technology and training to save innocent civilian and police lives.
He knows Holloway-Burks’ pain all too well.
“Ten years ago, my son was killed,” Farris said. “It was the result of a pursuit that occurred after an illegal U-turn.
“The driver failed to stop for the officer and they pursued.”
Both of these cases point to the biggest change Farris’ group aims to make when it comes to police chases – stop using them for lesser crimes.
“Today, about 90 percent of pursuits are [for a] non-violent felony,” Farris said. “The majority are misdemeanors, traffic violations or something of that sort.”
Farris travels the country providing training to law enforcement to help guide their decision-making process of when to pursue. He also points to technology, such as GPS tracking “darts” and OnStar services that can disable a car, as alternatives to high-speed pursuits.
He says federal grants are available for that technology, and he thinks that’s more cost-effective in the long run, especially considering lawsuits against police departments brought on by grieving families.
“Sadly, that’s what we see most often,” Farris said. “There’s some event, typically tragic, [where] someone is either grievously hurt or someone is killed or a lawsuit is filed before the changes occur.”
“It’s not fair that she’s not here,” Eriel Holloway said with tears streaming down her face. “She should be here with us.”
Eriel is Erieyana’s twin sister. When she spoke with CBS North Carolina’s evening anchor Sean Maroney, she had just turned 15 years old.
“It’s not the same,” Eriel said, wiping away the tears that continued to flow freely. “Each year on our birthday we used to eat cake together, to celebrate together.
“Now it’s just me all by myself.”
“Mothers need to embrace their children,” Holloway-Burks said, sitting near her remaining twin daughter. “Hug them and kiss them every day.”
“When they walk out that door,” Holloway-Burks gestured to the front door, her voice breaking and tears starting to flow again, “they’re not guaranteed to walk back through it.
“It’s not promised.”
Erieyana’s family has enlisted the services of an attorney. CBS North Carolina reached out to Garner police, and they didn’t want to go on camera or comment on this case, citing “a recent pursuit that still may go to litigation.”
However, they did send CBS North Carolina a copy of their vehicle pursuit policy, as did Raleigh and Durham’s police departments and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
After a change to their policy this summer, the Highway Patrol now restricts state troopers from pursuing a vehicle in a chase if the fleeing car is traveling more than 55 miles per hour and the suspect did not commit a felony.
Milwaukee Police officers now have the authority to chase vehicles driving recklessly or involved in mobile drug dealing. Those revisions to the department’s pursuit policy went into effect Friday September 22nd.
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission ordered those changes back in July, after a majority of Common Council members wrote a letter asking them to explore changes. According to those alderman, drivers were fleeing police with no fear of being chased, due to tight restrictions. Before the revisions, officers could only pursue violent felons, and cars involved in violent crimes.
Earlier this month, Alderman Bob Donovan called the new policy “a step in the right direction.”
A number of local families however, aren’t seeing it that way. In late 2009, four innocent people were killed in police pursuits in Milwaukee, prompting Chief Ed Flynn to restrict the chase policy.
Jonathan Farris runs “Pursuit for Change”, a Madison-based group advocating for stricter chase policies. Farris’ son Paul was killed in 2007, when a car fleeing from police slammed into a taxi he was taking in Boston.
“At that point I started researching police pursuits, because it didn’t make sense that they went and chased some guy who made an illegal U-turn.” The new Milwaukee policy won’t allow pursuits for that, but could make way for pursuits involving speeding cars, or cars running red lights.
“There’s an extremely high likelihood that in the not-so-distant future, somebody in Milwaukee is going to be injured or killed because of a pursuit that occurred because of these changes.”
Farris is advocating for more federal and state money to fund things like “starchase”, which attaches a GPS dart to fleeing cars. Milwaukee Police have this technology, but it’s unclear how often it’s being used.
In a statement Friday, the Fire and Police Commission said it will be closely monitoring the results of the new policy, saying “police pursuits should be a last resort, not a first.”
PFC Chief Advocate Jonathan Farris spoke to the MFPC several times, but that did nothing to change their minds. Under severe pressure from Milwaukee Aldermen, the Commissioners threatened to fire Police Chief Edward Flynn unless he loosened Milwaukee’s excellent police chase policies. The Chief was left no alternative.
Only time will tell how many additional Milwaukee citizens and police officers are injured or die because of these policy changes.
Thanks to reporter Ben Handelman for reaching out to speak with us.
Policy changes approved: MPD officers now allowed to pursue reckless vehicles, mobile drug traffickers
POSTED 4:12 PM, SEPTEMBER 7, 2017, BY BEN HANDELMAN, UPDATED AT 10:50PM, SEPTEMBER 7, 2017
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission on Thursday evening, September 7th approved a proposed revised pursuit policy that would allow Milwaukee police officers to pursue vehicles involved in reckless driving and suspected mobile drug trafficking.
Four years ago, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn changed the pursuit policy after several innocent bystanders were killed.
“There are people I report to. That is the nature of my business,” said Chief Flynn.
Police Chief Ed Flynn drafted up new rules after the Fire and Police Commission demanded changes and threatened his job if he didn’t follow through.
Officers once restricted to only chasing vehicles suspected of being involved in violent crime, now have discretion to follow drug dealers, reckless drivers and more. The new rules could drastically increase the number of chases. Something that most city aldermen say is needed.
“I’m really happy for the Fire and Police Commission. They really held the chief’s feet to the fire,” said Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy.
Alderman Michael Murphy was among those who wrote to the FPC demanding police chase more often, saying reckless driving is out of control with innocent people dying.
Alderman also believe bad guys exploit the restrictive police policy knowing they will not be chased. Aldermen hope not anymore.
Police chases can come with deadly risks. The FPC’s own report says more chases means more innocent bystanders and officer injuries and deaths — and a majority of the time the bad guys still get away from chases.
“It’s obviously going to result in more risk to the community. Just as obviously the community has expressed to the city council they want to see more pursuits because of reckless driving behavior. So that’s the position we’re in,” said Flynn.
Alderman Murphy said he is glad to see the revised policy come forward.
“I want to again thank the Fire and Police Commission for listening to members of the public and the Common Council on this issue,” Murphy said in the release. “Reckless driving and at times a climate of lawlessness on our streets has put our citizens in danger and it will be empowering for officers to now have a clearer path for apprehending people who break the law and think they can just drive away.”
According to the FPC, between January and May of 2017 there was a 53% increase in the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents and a 160% increase in the number of hit-and-run fatalities compared to the same time period in 2016. Furthermore, between January and April of 2017 there were more than 600 vehicles every month fleeing from MPD during traffic stops, a number that has increased year by year, often in excess of 100%, according to the release.
Advocates for policies that limit chasing warn the new policy will result in deadly results.
“As you continue to loosen the policy, more innocent bystanders and innocent drivers who get caught up in these cases will be hurt. And likely at some period of time will be killed,” says Jonathan Farris. Farris’ son was an innocent bystander killed by a police pursuit. He launched Pursuit for Change to advocate for anti-chase policies. He said Milwaukee’s previous policy was considered one of the best in the country.
“It’s not that the officers aren’t good but many times in the heat of the moment situations, not all the information is available. So if you leave the door wide open then there end up being more pursuits, says Farris.
The FPC states that perpetrators fleeing from traffic stops are issued citations for the offense only 20% of the time.
The FPC passed the changes Thursday, so officers now have more discretion. However, police supervisors still have the power to call off chases they feel are too dangerous.
Losing a child is the hardest thing you will ever do. You would trade places with your child. In an instant. But you can’t. Instead, you ask questions, and there are no answers. Only silence. You miss them. You love them. But that doesn’t change the fact that you can no longer hold them. The crushing weight of their absence sits heavily on your chest. Every. Single. Day.
Those that have not lost a child cannot understand your pain. A pain so profound it goes to the core of your being. You feel isolated and alone. But you are not alone. The road is filled with other fathers like you, trying to survive. Trying to find their way. Any way that points them to a glimmer of hope. You deal with guilt. You deal with shame. We are fixers, but this cannot be fixed. Only processed. A dad’s job is to take care of his family. You were your child’s protector. But you couldn’t protect them, not from this, the unthinkable.
Now you’re consumed by grief that no one wants to talk about. A grief that refuses to be ignored. You know that you’re not supposed to grieve like this. It’s not what you’ve been taught. Society told us from the time we were young: Toughen up. Take it like a man. Big boys don’t cry. Let me tell you, men DO cry. It’s essential, the pain must be released. We must take time to mourn. And asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness. It is a sign of courage.
You never get over it. You never have “closure,” whatever that is. But you can get through it. Not beyond it, but through it. It is forever apart of your life. Although painful, you fight to keep your child’s memory alive. We hang on to our memories and ask others that knew them to do the same.
Over time, I’ve learned that this grief is not the enemy. This pain isn’t something to be conquered or fixed. Over time, the pain gets better. Less intense. More about love. Less about pain.
The love never goes away. You never stop loving them. You start living your life to honor your child, and that gives you hope. You can survive the loss of your child, but you will be a different person. There is no going back to the old you. How could you? You know too much. This kind of pain and love changes you forever.
It is my personal opinion that this is a case of a Commission ceding to City Alders’ pressure. Departmental micromanagement by MFPC and a forced weakening of a strong policy, such as currently mandated, will most certainly result in more deaths of innocent Milwaukee citizens.-Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
The opinion of Matthew Flynn in the August 18th Op Ed in this publication, while a valuable contribution to the pursuit policy debate, nonetheless rests on some fundamental mischaracterizations which should be corrected in order for the public to have an honest understanding of the directive recently issued by the Fire and Police Commission.
He begins be stating that “the MPD would be required to continue high speed pursuits of automobiles under some circumstances.” This is false. The directive does not require police pursuit in any circumstance, it instead allows pursuit in certain additional specific circumstances. Current policy language already affords the involved officers discretion when deciding whether or not to pursue and our directive does not demand any change to this discretion.
Many people, including Mr. Flynn, attempt to infer that our directive demands that drivers would be pursued for traffic offenses. While the reason an officer might attempt to pull a vehicle over could likely indeed be a traffic offense, the reason a pursuit might be initiated is because the subject driver is fleeing from a lawful traffic stop at high speeds. The act of fleeing can be a violent felony, and it is the driver of the fleeing vehiclewho is using reckless deadly force by fleeing dangerously at high speed, and it is the driver of the fleeing vehicle who is endangering the public. Furthermore, the reactive pursuit action by law enforcement in these situations is clearly and unambiguously justified by the US Supreme Court majority opinion in Scott v. Harris. Despite this wide legal latitude, the directive keeps in place the existing overarching theme of restriction to the practice and only broadens the existing pursuable offenses modestly and reasonably to include mobile drug dealing, fleeing from police multiple times, and excessively reckless driving.
It is true when the author states “There are many methods and technologies to arrest drivers later, even drivers of stolen cars.” The Fire and Police Commission fully supports and encourages the use of alternative methods for apprehending fleeing drivers. This is why our directive also calls for a follow-up report from the MPD which we hope will show progress in the department’s efforts in non-pursuit follow up. The FPC was forced to ask for such a report on non-pursuits precisely because of the unsatisfactory findings in our commission’s research report on the topic.
Finally, the claim is that replacing Chief Flynn with another police chief will result in an increase of deadly force by MPD is offensive to the professionalism of our police force. The author presents no evidence to support this claim nor does the directive have anything to do with Chief Flynn personally. The FPC is fulfilling its duty to work collaboratively with the Chief to make Milwaukee’s policing more effective. The FPC was in place well before Chief Flynn was hired and he was well aware of the board’s authority when he accepted the position; Wisconsin State Statute Chapter 62.50 clearly states that the board may prescribe general policies and standards for the departments.
As a diverse group of Milwaukee residents acting as the citizens’ voice in fire and police matters, we take this responsibility seriously and are committed to the goal of reducing crime, fear and disorder in our city. The citizen board members of the FPC have heard the undeniable voice of the citizens of the city who have been begging our body to help the police department make our streets safer, and we have acted with a measured and common sense response.
Steven M. DeVougas was appointed to the Board in September 2013, elected Chair in July, 2015 and re-elected Chair in July, 2016. His term expires in 2018. Mr. DeVougas received his Juris Doctor from Marquette University Law School in 2007. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2004, with degrees in Economics and English. He is Past-President of the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers and has been named “40 under 40” by the Milwaukee Business Journal.
Highway Patrol mum on deadly US 23/74 wreck report
HAYWOOD COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) —
The latest report on a deadly Haywood County wreck involving a North Carolina State Trooper is drawing strong reactions from many News 13 viewers. The report said Trooper Hunter Hooper was traveling 115 mph just moments before he crashed into an RV that was making a legal U-turn on US 23/74. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff/NCHP)
One big unanswered question remains about the collision that killed a Florida couple — Who was the trooper trying to stop?
News 13 has asked repeatedly since the crash and has not received an answer.
The Highway Patrol collision report shows a diagram of the wreck and says that the RV, designated as “vehicle 1,” failed to yield the right of way and traveled into the path of “vehicle 2,” which was Trooper Hooper.
The driver of the RV and his wife, Robert and Esther Nelson, died in the wreck.
Highway Patrol has not responded to News 13’s question if the agency has speed policies in place for traffic pursuits.
Jonathan Farris is the founder of Pursuit for Change, which aims to raise awareness about the dangers of high-speed traffic pursuits. Farris said he lost his son Paul in 2007 during a high-speed pursuit that involved a Boston area trooper.
“This is so very similar to stories that happen across the U.S.,” Farris told News 13.
With knowledge of the Haywood County crash, Farris gave this statistic:
“It’s mind-boggling that this continues to happen over and over again because the vast majority, as much as 90 percent, of these pursuits occur as a result of a misdemeanor traffic violation,” he said.
Farris said many high-speed police crashes end in costly litigation for police agencies involved.
Highway Patrol has told News 13 the SBI and the reconstruction team are still investigating this case.
adminHighway Patrol mum on deadly US 23/74 wreck report
Jack Phoenix, a.k.a. SAKE, was the victim of a hit and run in 2015. He was crossing Venice Blvd at 8:30 pm on a Sunday night. Police were chasing a stolen car at high speed. There were no lights, no sirens. “TO SERVE AND PROTECT”. He was only fifteen. He would have been sixteen a month later on Christmas Eve.
by Jonathan Farris Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
On July 27, 2017 Mr. Farris drove to Milwaukee to address the MFPC. Below is his statement.
“Today, again, I drove here for an opportunity to address this Commission regarding the issue of police pursuits.
Pursuit For Change is an organization focusing on pursuit policies, legislation, technology and officer training designed to reduce unnecessary police chases and save citizen and police officer lives.
As I explained to the FPC on June 15th, my 23-year old son was an innocent victim, killed in an unnecessary police chase outside of Boston in 2007. In that crash, a second innocent citizen died and another was so severely injured that her recovery took many years.
That was a fateful pursuit that occurred in a densely populated city not all that different than Milwaukee.
I have been following the highly publicized and generally contentious pursuit policy-related communications between Milwaukee’s Aldermen, the FPC and Chief Flynn. I have also read the FPC’s July 13, 2017 pursuit directive issued to Chief Flynn.
I am disappointed FPC did not consider, as I requested, allowing Pursuit For Change an opportunity to address you before you issued this directive.
For years now, all across the United States, local law enforcement, Sheriff’s departments and State police have continued to strengthen their pursuit policies in an effort to reduce chases. This is especially true as it relates to pursuits in densely populated jurisdictions.
Other law enforcement and legislative bodies are certainly NOT weakening pursuit policies.
How will the FPC respond when innocent bystanders are injured and killed for chases started under this new policy?
And how will the FPC and City of Milwaukee respond when those innocent citizens bring legal actionsbecause the FPC weakened policy, contrary to other jurisdictions, was the direct cause of the injury or death?
Finally, have you considered other already available options? Have you considered funding additional technology tools that are proven to safely reduce the need for more dangerous pursuits while still allowing the capture of car thieves, drug dealers and joyriding kids?
You already have a well thought out pursuit policy, implemented after the unnecessary deaths of Milwaukee citizens several years ago.
I once again ask that you remember the tens of thousands of innocent citizens and police officers unnecessarily injured and killed during dangerous police chases as you make changes to Milwaukee’s pursuit policies.
adminStatement for the Milwaukee Fire & Police Commission
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
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A grand jury has found police chases in Los Angeles are causing “unnecessary bystander injuries and deaths”and recommended police and sheriff’s officers undergo additional training to reduce the likelihood of crashes during pursuits, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Los Angeles County civil grand jury report found three people were killed and 45 people were injured during 421 pursuits in the county from October 2015 until 2016 and concluded that most of the pursuits were not provoked by serious crimes.
The report, citing information from the California Highway Patrol, found that 17 percent of pursuits ended in crashes with the possibility of injuries or death. Sixty-seven percent of the pursuits ended with arrests, the grand jury found.
The grand jury also found that neither Los Angeles police nor sheriff’s officials have policies in place for recurring or continued vehicle pursuit training.
“Police pursuits are inherently dangerous and that is why the Los Angeles Police Department takes every step to develop tactics and mitigate the risk posed by these dangerous interactions,” Los Angeles police spokesman Josh Rubenstein said in a statement. “We are constantly reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure they support what we value the most: the preservation of life.”
The report also criticized the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department’s training facility, saying it was “substandard.” A sheriff’s official said the department is in the process of acquiring a new training center for emergency drivers.
Deputies receive annual training on the department’s pursuit policy and also undergo emergency vehicle training every two years, sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gage said. The sheriff’s department – the largest in the U.S. – has one of the most restrictive pursuit policies in the nation, Gage said.
The policy only allows deputies to pursue drivers for serious felony offenses, confirmed stolen cars or potentially reckless drunken drivers,Gage said. The department’s policy expressly prohibits deputies from chasing someone fleeing after being stopped from an infraction, he said.
“We’re always looking to do better and have more training in this field,” Gage said. “There’s nobody that’s going to say the training is enough for our folks.”
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.
adminGrand Jury: Los Angeles Police Pursuits Cause ‘Unnecessary’ Injuries, Deaths
High-speed police pursuits can be deadly for police officers, innocent bystanders, and suspects. A 2015 USA Today article reports that from 1979 to 2013, 139 police officers were killed during or as a result of high-speed pursuits. During that same time frame, more than 5,000 passengers and bystanders were inadvertently killed due to high-speed police chases, and tens of thousands of people were injured. Suspects also endangered themselves by choosing to run from the law. USA Today says 6,300 suspects died in high-speed pursuits during the time frame of its research. It’s no wonder that in 1990, the Justice Department called police chases “the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities.”
To reduce the dangers of high-speed vehicle pursuits, law enforcement agencies need to understand the causes of high-speed pursuits, the legal issues involved, the problems behind such pursuits, and the strategies for reducing high-speed pursuits.
Worth the Risk?
In California, only 5% of high speed pursuits were an attempt to catch someone suspected of committing a violent crime; the majority of the pursuits started for a minor traffic or vehicle infraction. In 1998, a study funded by the Justice Department revealed that the most common violation for suspects who caused high-speed pursuits was car theft. The second most common offense was having a suspended license, and the third was avoiding arrest.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn believes that the risks involved with high-speed pursuits do not justify the rewards. In an interview for that 2015 USA Today article Flynn said, “Overwhelmingly, someone is fleeing because they’ve got a minor warrant, their car isn’t insured, they’ve had too much to drink…the sanctions imposed by courts nationwide for merely stealing a car don’t justify anybody taking any risk.”
James Vaughn is the chief instructor at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy Driver Instructor Course. In 2004, he showed his class of officers a video of a police chase that ultimately ended with the fleeing vehicle being rammed by a police cruiser, leading the passenger and her child to be ejected. The driver’s offense was possessing a small amount of crack. Vaughn asked if a suspect could be shot for possessing a small amount of crack and equated the two events. Vaughn says that many officers “perceive a fleeing suspect as something personal.” He goes on to say that thankfully, “there has been an evolution of the profession through better training and better policies.”
The Courts and Pursuits
Vaughn’s lecture raises the subject of the legality of vehicle pursuits as a use of force and the liability that can result from their consequences. It has been reported that vehicle pursuits are the second greatest source of awards and judgments against law enforcement agencies.
The constitutionality of high-speed pursuits has come under scrutiny in recent decades, focusing on what the courts sometimes view as a “disproportionate use of force.” In the 1973 case Johnson v. Glick, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals published a test to determine whether police used excessive force. This test has four aspects: 1) the need for the force, 2) the relationship between the need and the amount of force used, 3) the extent of the injury, and 4) the officer’s motives. An action that does not pass this test is a violation of the suspect’s 4th and 14th Amendment rights.
The Glick test was used in 1985 during the ruling on Tennessee v. Garner, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that established officers cannot legally kill unarmed persons just because they are running away from the officers. In its ruling, the Court noted that the need to catch Garner, who was suspected of burglary, did not outweigh the suspect’s life because he did not pose a considerable threat to society even though he committed a felony.
In 1989, the Supreme Court again made a decision regarding disproportionate force, this time with regard to non-lethal force. In Graham v. Connor, the Supreme Court used both the Johnson v. Glick and the Tennessee v. Garner opinions to determine that force should be proportionate to the danger posed by the subject, the seriousness of the offense, and the harm in failing to capture the subject.
Since high-speed pursuits are so dangerous, why are they so prevalent? Perhaps the frequency of high-speed pursuits is due in part to the Broken Window Theory, which George Kelling and James Wilson discussed in their article titled “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety.” This theory posits that uncontrolled minor crimes leave room for major crime to slowly creep into the community.
A 2008 study titled “Police Pursuits in an Age of Innovation and Reform” by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that 91% of all high-speed pursuits begin with the suspects committing “non-violent” crimes. Departments have implemented vehicle pursuit policies to deter crime, building the (more or less accurate) perception that fleeing the police in a vehicle, even after a non-violent crime, will result in being caught and facing serious consequences.
On the other hand, the Milwaukee Police Department has instituted a no-pursuit policy if the suspect did not commit a violent felony. Alderman Bob Donovan, a member of the Public Safety Committee in Milwaukee said during a TV interview, “We’ve seen a significant level of disorder as a result of this policy,” and that the city’s no pursuit policy is “fueling crime across Milwaukee.” Critics like Donovan claim that because criminals are becoming aware that these “no pursuit policies” are in place, they think they are more likely to be able to get away with small crimes. The data supports this argument. Motor vehicle thefts, in which Milwaukee police are instructed not to engage in high-speed pursuits, increased from 12 per day in 2013 to 18 per day in 2014. Chief Flynn told USA Today, “These kids were finding out, well, nothing happens to me. They had the prestige of being cool to their friends, the thrill of the danger and no consequences.” This is the conundrum facing law enforcement agencies. How can they reduce the number of high-speed pursuits while still maintaining departmental integrity so that justice is enforced equally and thoroughly?
When it comes to reducing high-speed pursuits, there are various strategies that a law enforcement agency can employ in order to maintain an effective response plan. There are pluses and minuses for each. If a department changes the policy to instruct officers to never pursue fleeing suspects in vehicles, problems with consistent enforcement may arise. On the other hand, high-speed pursuits can be extremely costly, both in terms of people killed and injured and in terms of lawsuits against the involved agency.
One strategy to curtail unsafe high-speed pursuits is a simple change in policy. In 2010, the Milwaukee Police Department began restricting high-speed pursuits to suspected violent felons. From the period of 2010 to 2014, injuries from high-speed pursuits in Milwaukee dropped. The Florida Highway Patrol adopted a similar policy in 2012. Highway Patrol officers were told to only chase criminals suspected of violent felonies, drunk drivers, and reckless drivers. In 2010 and 2011, high-speed pursuits by the Florida Highway patrol numbered 697. In 2013 and 2014, the number dropped to 374.
Agencies can also increase training on high-speed pursuits. High-speed pursuits can happen so suddenly that officers often have little time to think before they must make critical decisions. In 2007, Florida Highway Patrol sergeants were surveyed and the study found that 80% did not think that patrol officers received an adequate amount of pursuit training. One way that a law enforcement agency can help train its officers for high-speed pursuits is using a pursuit management continuum—a visual chart that shows what level of force should be used for what type of offense.
A pursuit management continuum has three levels for both the suspect’s actions and for the officer’s responses, the Police Policy Studies Council says. For the officer, the levels are Level 1 Control, Level 2 Control, and Level 3 Control. For fleeing suspects, the levels are Level 1 Flight, Level 2 Flight, and Level 3 Flight.
Level 1 Flight is violations such as minor traffic crimes and other low-threat crimes, to which an officer should respond with an action from Level 1 Control, including simple trailing and stationary roadblocks. In this first level, since the threat to the public is not severe, officers can use techniques that are relatively safe for both themselves and the suspects they are trying to stop. If the suspect does not stop, or if a police officer witnesses a more serious offense, then the situation escalates to Level 2, which includes serious traffic offenses and crimes that present a high risk to public safety but do not justify deadly force such as driving while intoxicated. An officer should respond with Level 2 Controls, including rolling roadblocks or controlled deflation devices (spike strips). As officer and suspect action goes up the continuum, the more dangerous the situation is for those involved as well as bystanders. A Level 3 offense would be a life-threatening felony, something that justifies a deadly force response. A Level 3 Control could be ramming the suspects’ car or using firearms. Using Level 3 controls should be reserved for the most egregious offenses in emergency situations.
Officers can also use GPS to track a fleeing vehicle instead of pursuing. One such technology, StarChase, has been deployed at various law enforcement agencies.
The StarChase system includes a control panel installed inside the officer’s vehicle that the officer can use to arm, aim, and fire the system. The launching component holds the GPS trackers and is installed on the front of the officer’s vehicle. When an officer is chasing a fleeing vehicle, he or she can then arm the system, shoot a GPS tracker onto the fleeing vehicle, and terminate the pursuit. Police can then follow up on the vehicle once it is parked to apprehend the suspect.
In a study of 36 agencies, Dr. Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina found that StarChase was more than 80% successful in leading police to criminals, and that many of the unsuccessful deployments were affected by weather.
Since vehicle pursuits pose a danger to police officers and bystanders alike, law enforcement management ideally should develop and implement a policy that identifies management approval at key decision points for the pursuit to begin and continue. Decision Point One: Do the officers have approval to initiate a pursuit? This decision should be made based on the agency’s policy.
Decision Point Two: Should the pursuit continue beyond its initial moment? This decision must be made based on the totality of circumstances involved and agency policy. For this decision to be effective a superior must direct the pursuit.
Decision Point Three: Should officers from other agencies become involved? The supervisor who is directing the pursuit should maintain communication with other jurisdictions as the pursuit moves into their territory. The primary reason for another agency to become involved is if the initiating agency abandons the pursuit or it needs support.
Decision Point Four: What strategies, tactics, or techniques can be used to physically stop the fleeing vehicle? Once again, agency policy, good police management, and legal mandates must guide the decision-making process and any action taken should require command approval.
Decision Point Five: Should the pursuit be terminated? This decision may be made at any time, beginning with the request to initiate the pursuit, or any time prior to apprehension of the fleeing vehicle. This decision may be made by the initiating officer or management, but management will have greater objectivity and the expertise to make the most effective decision.
Each of these decisions is best made by management. Officers involved in a pursuit are extremely busy, and they are also feeling a rush of adrenaline. They need guidance commanders who are not participating in the pursuit.
Accountability and Assessment
Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses a voluntary reporting system for law enforcement vehicle pursuits. This means that police departments are not required to report all data from pursuits that occur within their jurisdictions. Police departments can opt out, for example, of giving NHTSA an accurate count of officers, bystanders, and suspects injured or killed as a result of high-speed chases. To keep the department accountable, agencies should require that all of their data to be sent to NHTSA, regardless of how it makes the department look. This will pressure the department to actively reduce the number of pursuits and increase safety when pursuits do occur.
The first step in assessing the effectiveness of implemented strategies is to collect data before the changes are put in place. At least a year’s worth of data should be collected so that future data will have a comparative sample. If data is collected only over a couple of months, then the sample size is too small, and it becomes hard to assess the effectiveness of implemented programs.
When looking at pursuit data, simply recording the number of pursuits will not show anything substantive. Even though there will be an expected drop in the number of high-speed pursuits due to officers being instructed to only pursue certain types of offenders, data should still be collected regarding related injuries, fatalities, costs, and the number of pursuits. By collecting all of the different types of data, law enforcement agencies (or the outside sources they hire to analyze the data) can determine whether or not their implemented strategies have been effective.
After the data is analyzed, agencies can adjust their policies and procedures as needed. Once these amended policies are in place, the process must start over with data collection from the new policies. This process should continue until the department is content with the amount of data it has recorded.
High-speed pursuits are a very dangerous task that law enforcement officers sometimes must undertake. Such pursuits are more common than many would assume, and an unfortunate number of them end in crashes resulting either in casualties or fatalities. However, if police agencies understand the causes of high-speed pursuits and how to reduce their likelihood, they will be better prepared to improve officer and bystander safety.
Patrick Oliver served as chief of police for the cities of Fairborn, OH, and Grandview Heights, OH, and as ranger chief of Cleveland Metropolitan Park District. He has significant experience with pursuits, having worked 11 years as a trooper with the Ohio Highway Patrol. Oliver is currently director of the criminal justice program for Cedarville University.
Samuel Kirchhoff is a criminal justice student at Cedarville University.
What a tragic year 2016 was for law enforcement line of duty deaths involving ambush, violent assaults and firearms. Depending on the source that you use, LODDs due to firearms are up a staggering 61 percent to 83 percent over 2015, while overall LODDs are up 12 percent to 18 percent over 2015. It is a reminder that we must all stay alert, plan ahead and keep vigilant with calls involving firearms. It is also a time where we must rise above the media hype, maintain our professionalism and stay the course on reducing “all” LODDs across this country.
When looking at the 2016 LODD statistics, it is notable that we continue to lose officers and deputies in vehicle related incidents. The majority of those losses involve pursuits and emergency response to calls for service. LODD numbers that are identified as “traffic-related” are significant. In 2016, we lost 51 officer/deputies to these incidents (up 11 percent) while we have lost 61 to firearms-related (up 61 percent). In years past, we have lost almost as many, and in some cases more, officer/deputies to the “automobile” incidents than to the “firearm” incidents and yet, our recognition of the safe and tactical operation of the automobile is so much less than that of the firearm? It is a pitfall that many law enforcement officers and deputies, tacticians, and trainers fall prey to our own profession’s hype that officer survival only involves physical conditioning, aggressiveness and a command of firearm skills. But, in fact, a more accurate personal officer survival program should include driving skills, good judgment and decision making skills, as well as mental conditioning and interpersonal skill that include deescalation in all situations.
Let’s talk a bit about the 51 officers and deputies that we lost in 2016 to traffic-related incidents and what we as a profession are doing and training about it?
1. Changes in policy and culture
In the old days, we practiced pursuits on graveyards and nightshifts, where finding a pursuit was like taking a lunch; if you wanted one, you took it. However, today the Chief’s and Sheriff’s, along with community and LE leaders have reduced the number of pursuits and emergency responses through more restrictive policy, law changes and an overall cultural change. There are basically three types of Police Pursuit policies in our country: the threshold policy, the balance test and the zero pursuit policy. All are authored with the best of intentions in mind, however the real question is how is the policy actually followed in practice and is our training applicable to the policy?
2. Shifting focus in training
Don’t take this the wrong way; I do believe it is the right thing to reduce unnecessary pursuits and emergency responses in light of how dangerous they can be. The real question is are we still training proper driving, judgment, decision making, and de-escalation skills required of the pursuits and emergency responses that are still authorized and required of our profession. Look back at the numbers again; the contemporary training focus is on the 61 firearms-related deaths, yet we still lost 51 officers and deputies to “traffic-related” incidents. As trainers, shouldn’t we respect driving as much as we respect shooting!
If we can all agree, much like Below 100 advocates, that driving is a critical survival skill, then let’s move forward and discuss how we are actually training to this end.
3. Driving training isn’t just for beginners
In my experience in training throughout this country, I find a very similar mindset within both administrative and line-personnel regarding driver training: it’s for the basic academy recruit and not necessary for the intermediate or advanced officer or deputy because they drive everyday.
It seems that most agencies only consider driving training after a collision has occurred where-in the officer or deputy has been deemed to be at-fault or in some cases if the collision is considered to be preventable. Even in these remedial cases, the remediation of being sent to a high-speed driving class or local cone course often has nothing to do with the real cause of the collision. For example, an officer or deputy may have been driving too fast for the current road conditions and was unable to stop in time for an unexpected conflict and is then sent to a high speed pursuit driving course.
There is also almost no consideration given for close-calls as they are difficult to document and quite frankly, who is going to call a peer out for driving too fast or passing when it was unsafe or not wearing a seat belt? It’s not like they drove up too close on a hot call or put themselves between lines of fire at a hostage situation or chose not to wait for a back-up when one was available and ended up in a bad situation; or is it?
4. Who is driving complacency?
It is examples like the above where I see complacency towards driving and ask the question: who is driving complacency?
First, are you as an operator of an official authorized emergency vehicle driving complacency by taking your driving for granted, not wearing a seat belt, pushing the speed and most of all, believing that you could stop on a dime at any time?
Second, are you the training officer, Sergeant or Administrator/Chief that is driving complacency by not requiring, providing or encouraging driving training that supports safe operation, good judgment and proper decisions while operating an emergency vehicle? Would you not agree that both groups are driving complacency?
So, the point here is that we should examine what we are training for and how much time we are dedicating to high liability, low frequency training? Are we looking at the facts and numbers to base our decisions on? Have we separated “driving training” too far from force options, judgment, decision-making and de-escalation training? If we’re losing almost as many officers to traffic-related incidents as to firearms-related incidents, shouldn’t our driving training remain a high priority for us?
About the Author
Chuck Deakins is Public Safety Specialist for FAAC. Deakins is a retired officer from Santa Ana (Calif.) whose knowledge of simulator training strategies, tactics, and techniques, has led to his success in all applications of simulation instruction.
By Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
OK, here goes. I need to talk.
On May 27, 2007 our oldest son Paul was killed in a vehicle crash. Some days it seems like yesterday. Other days it doesn’t even seem real.
Walid Chahine, the driver of the taxi in which Paul was riding, succumbed to injuries and died one week later. Paul’s girlfriend, Katelyn, miraculously survived. But she spent months in the hospital and years in rehabilitation before she returned to normalcy.
Why did Paul die? Why did Walid die? Why did Kate nearly die?
Because an unlicensed driver made an illegal U-turn and then made a conscious decision to run from police. And because a State Trooper made a conscious decision that this particular misdemeanor violation was an important enough infraction to warrant the ultimately deadly, high-speed police chase through the narrow streets of several Boston suburbs.
And so, because of one very stupid individual’s decision to run, two people are dead and too many of us now live with that horror forever.
My family’s life will never be the same. Walid’s family’s life will never be the same. Kate and her family’s life will never be the same.
I’ve spoken about this ad nauseam, but the loss of a child is inexplicable and it rips an immense hole in your heart. Many parents and siblings never recover from such a loss.
Perhaps we are the lucky ones, because we survived? Perhaps.
Since Paul’s death I’ve researched, reported on and suggested changes for various aspects of problematic police pursuits. I joined the advocacy PursuitSAFETY and later started Pursuit For Change.
Some chases, such as those to apprehend dangerous violent felons, are often necessary. However, the vast majority of chases begin as a result of traffic violations or property crimes such as shoplifting or theft. Those pursuits are almost always unnecessary. Yet every day there are more. Many, many more.
Federal reporting of police pursuit deaths is still not mandatory and there is virtually no reporting of police pursuit injuries. So we must interpolate using information from those agencies and states that do keep reasonably accurate statistics.
Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina who has studied police pursuits since the 1980s, says the actual number of fatalities is “three or four times higher than reported.” Others think that even this estimate is low. And another complicating factor; bystanders killed after police stop chasing suspects — even seconds afterward — are never counted.
From incomplete National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported data, approximately 360 people are killed every year in police chases. Using these reported numbers, in the ten years since Paul’s death another 3,500+ people were killed. If you interpolate, that number is likely closer to 14,000.
About one third of those killed are innocent bystanders, like Paul and Walid. And more than a fair number are law enforcement officers, killed during or while responding to a police pursuit.
In that same ten-year period, using woefully inadequately reporting, we estimate that at least five times as many people were injured. That’s more than 17,500 (70,000 if interpolated) individuals hurt, with many of those injuries being life-altering.
The statistics are staggering. The human toll is unnecessary. AND NEARLY NOTHING HAS CHANGED SINCE PAUL FARRIS WAS KILLED.
Perpetrators flee from police for every imaginational reason. Often it’s due to an outstanding warrant, no driver’s license, alcohol or drugs in the vehicle, or simply out of some irrational fear. Regardless, more than ninety percent of pursuits are for non-violent crimes. All too often law enforcement’s decision to pursue is made instinctually, rather than with clarity and forethought of potential outcomes.
Here’s an excerpt from one law enforcement agency’s emergency vehicle operations manual:
“All personnel operating department vehicles shall exercise due regard for the safety of all persons. There are no assignments or tasks of such importance that they justify the reckless disregard of the member’s safety or the safety of other persons. Members must be mindful of the balance between achieving the goals of law enforcement while maintaining the public’s safety.”
Public safety. Common sense. Split-second decision-making. Most LEO’s exhibit great strength in these critical skills. However, all too often, these skills are overridden by an officer’s gut instinct to chase anyone who flees, no matter the reason. That is what must change.
A police pursuit policy is only as good as it’s implementation. Allowing officers to pursue for any reason puts the fleeing driver, innocent citizens and LEOs at risk.POLICE PURSUITS ALWAYS ENDANGER PUBLIC SAFETY – ALWAYS.
Most law enforcement agencies need support, additional training and additional funding for alternatives to pursuits, such as pursuit reduction technology. Pursuit For Change works with technology partners and legislators to enact positive changes and provide sources of funding for LEOs. Legislators in Washington DC have responded to our requests and have adopted our proposed 2017 Appropriations language. And we will work diligently for additional changes and LEO funding in the 2018 Appropriations Bills.
We need your help. Most substantive Federal, State and local changes occur because citizens like you and me communicate with and teach the decision-makers. Without your voices and stories, change is nearly impossible. And without your voices, many more innocent bystanders will certainly die as the result of non-violent felony police chases.
My heart aches for Paul every single day. I still have crying meltdowns virtually every week. I am so very sad for all that was taken from Paul. I am so very sad for all that was taken from my family and me.
By the St. Louis Post Dispatch Editorial Board Posted on May 11, 2017
A 9-year-old boy died Friday from injuries in a high-speed police chase that ended when the fleeing vehicle crashed into his family’s car near St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The mother of one of three men killed in a police chase in 2014 filed a federal lawsuit last week accusing officers and troopers with the Missouri Highway Patrol and city of Pevely of conducting a reckless chase. These are two examples among many that highlight the need for a regionwide pursuit policy that emphasizes restricting such chases.
Clear minds rarely prevail when vehicles are racing down highways at high speeds with motorists and pedestrians scrambling to get out of the way. Officers and the public are put at risk by chases that end too often with injured bystanders or passengers.
There are alternatives. Police sometimes throw down spike strips to impede fleeing vehicles, which is a good use of limited technology. They could also use a newer technology that enables them to shoot GPS devices that attach to fleeing vehicles. Helicopter pursuits also remain a viable, lower-risk option.
St. Louis city and county police have limited pursuit rules and do not chase traffic violators, but some neighboring jurisdictions do. In the situation involving the child who died Friday, a Normandy officer was chasing a stolen SUV whose driver had committed a moving violation on Interstate 70.
A 16-year-old was driving the SUV with two 15-year-old passengers. They sustained minor injuries and were taken into custody. Lambert airport is about 5 miles from Normandy, which means the officer crossed jurisdictions in pursuit.
Normandy police said shortly after the April 25 accident that they were investigating to see whether the chase met department policies. Normandy police said Wednesday they were still investigating. It remains unclear when police discovered that the SUV was stolen or had been carjacked — two factors that might have helped justify a pursuit.
Police owe the public answers when a high-speed chase ends in tragedy. The child’s 5-year-old brother and mother, 30, were also critically injured in the crash, which snarled airport traffic for hours.
The woman who sued over her son’s death in Jefferson County said in the lawsuit that her son called her during the chase and begged for help, saying the driver would not let passengers out. The call came too late and her son died while on the phone with her. The pursuit originated when police stopped the driver for speeding and he fled.
Regional authorities need to set strict parameters for police pursuits of fleeing vehicles and when chases are permissible outside their jurisdictions. Nobody wants teens joyriding in stolen vehicles or armed criminals circulating on the roads, but the pursuit must be worth the risk and danger. Otherwise, wait to catch them another time.
by Jon Farris, Chief Advocate – Pursuit For Change
Rose Capela DeAngelis-Bio May 25, 2017
Rose should have turned 18 on this day, if she was still alive.
But Rose, like so many other innocent victims, was killed as the result of a police chase once again gone horribly wrong.
Here’s the first note I received from Patti, Rose’s mom:
I lost my 16 year old daughter in a tragic and senseless accident. Rose Capela Bio died September 21, 2015 at 1:14am. She died in surgery, after the vehicle in which she was riding in the back seat, flipped multiple times during a high speed police chase begun because the driver didn’t stop when the police tried to pull him over.
All FOUR (4) kids in the vehicle died.Rose was the only one wearing a seatbelt. The other three occupants died instantly, and Rose fought her hardest but was injured so seriously that she too was taken to heaven. I realize this would not have happened if the driver had stopped, but nonethless I will spend my life advocating to end high speed police chases.
Since receiving Patti’s note we’ve remained friends in contact. We are kindred spirits – parents of children killed as the result of a police pursuit.
Rose would have be graduating from high school this year – but no… So to help with the pain, Patti’s children and nieces started a rock painting group called “Rocks4Rose“. I’ve included a Facebook link below.
Patti tells me that Rocks4Rose is helping Rose’s family and friends with their healing. The group paints rocks and leaves them in places for people to find. Awesome!
We had one lady post saying her friend found one at the foot of the statue of liberty! And another was found in Baja California, so that’s kinda cool. We share Rose’s story on the @Rocks4Rose page on Facebook (http://bit.ly/2pU7Z66) hoping to raise awareness about teens and police chases. If you have a minute, check out the page.
I highly encourage you to visit Patti’s Rocks4Rose Facebook page and perhaps paint a rock yourself. But even if you can’t paint, please remember the innocent victims killed. And remember there are thousands upon thousands of people living in pain because they lost a loved one in an avoidable police chase.
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.
Here’s an article published the day of Paul Farris’ death. So tell me, exactly what’s changed in 2016?
Police chases not worth risk of tragedy May 31, 2007
by Margery Eagan Boston Globe Columnist
“Here’s yet another question: would you prefer someone driving through Boston erratically at 40 mph, or chased by police, at 70 or 80 mph?”
Explain this, please: Because about 100 children a year are abducted and killed by strangers, we have totally revamped American childhood. Good parents won’t even let children in the back yard alone. Yet at least that many innocent Americans, including children (some estimate two or three times as many) are killed every year in police chases. And every time I’ve written a column asking if these chases are worth it, the response is the same. Surely I am insane. Really?
Two innocent bystanders killed; one permanently injured The latest police chase tragedy came early Sunday morning when Javier Morales, 29, refused to stop for a state trooper in Everett. Morales made an illegal left turn off Route 16. He had no license and feared jail time for a previous no-license arrest. Perhaps if he faced greater jail time for refusing to stop for police a penalty many have proposed to reduce these chases Morales, weighing his options, would have made a different choice. To stop. As it was, Trooper Joseph Kalil chased Morales stolen SUV from Everett to Somerville’s Davis Square, where Morales plowed into a cab driven by Walid Chahine, 45, a husband and father. In the backseat were musician Paul Farris, 23, and his girlfriend Katelyn Hoyt. Hoyt and Chahine [Walid Chahine died at the hospital.] are at Mass. General, critically injured. Farris is dead. The fourth victim: Trooper Kalil, who must live with what happened for the rest of his days. So why is it that state police here, and in many other states, chase traffic violators at all? Boston police don’t. Neither do police in many other big cities, in part because of the risk of multi million-dollar lawsuits. Boston’s pursuit standards are higher than those followed by state police: Boston is supposed to chase only violent or dangerous suspects or those driving erratically, possibly because of drugs or alcohol. Here’s yet another question: would you prefer someone driving through Boston erratically at 40 mph, or chased by police, at 70 or 80 mph? One more question: Why do we assume that chasing even dangerous criminals is always worth the risk of maiming or killing a pedestrian or family in a minivan?
Myth vs. Fact The myth, by the way, is that police typically or even regularly chase the dangerous, that there’s a dead body in the trunk, says Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina, who has studied police pursuits since 1983. The fact is, between 75 and 80 percent of chases occur after moving violations, says Alpert. They’re mostly young kids who’ve made stupid decisions. The more powerful tool for police? Turn off the lights and siren and it’s more likely the suspect will slow down. I guess the idea of letting the bad guy get away seems un-American. Perhaps, too, the car chase is too rooted in American legend, from The French Connection to O.J. to whatever live police pursuit Fox and MSNBC can find and broadcast. And perhaps politicians don’t want to buck police. And then there’s adrenaline: If you’ve heard a chase on a police radio, you know want I’m talking about. Yesterday Pearl Allen, a retired music and Afro-American studies teacher at John D. O’Bryant School, said what many say who lose family to police pursuits. That if police hadn’t chased, her grandson would still be alive. Quentin Osbourne, once a standout for the Boston Raiders Pop Warner team, was 15 when he was ejected from a Hyundai Elantra he and six friends had piled into. The 16-year-old unlicensed driver ran a stop sign. Police chased. He drove into a brick wall. They were just kids, his grandmother said. (The police) put on the flashing blue light. I think the driver got scared and sped away, and they just kept chasing until they crashed.
It is a simple and horrible fact that #PoliceChases affect families across the US every single day. The following note is from a dear friend who lost her sister. We have included the full article by Charlotte Observer reporter Bruce Henderson.
I thought you might be interested in an article published yesterday in the Charlotte Observer. This upcoming week is celebrated as “Sunshine Week” in newspapers across the country. The Observer thought our family’s story would make a good anecdote for an article about the importance of granting the public access to government records–what in Florida was broadened some years ago through a “Sunshine” law.
After the deputy editor spoke with me, he decided that they could make more than an anecdote out of our story. He put another reporter onto it, who asked lots of detailed questions. The resulting article has a few errors and gaps, but over all it’s the best thing ever written about our family’s experience with an ill-considered police pursuit and our subsequent quest to learn what went wrong.
For the pursuit issue, keeping careful records and then making those available to the public is of critical importance, as we’ve found. I think we’ve also found that non-compliance with policy on pursuits is associated with other lapses of professionalism on the part of law enforcement. And we’ve seen that these problems are often most pronounced in small town departments. This article illustrates all of that.
Ellen Deitz Tucker
MARCH 10, 2017 9:18 AM
She questioned police version of sister’s death – then fought for the truth
Donna Deitz, 60, and her lifelong friend Kevin Loftin, 56, a former Belmont mayor, were returning from an Ash Wednesday service one night in February 2012. An Acura SUV driven by Lester Saunders Norman Jr., with police in pursuit, smashed into Loftin’s Audi, killing them both. Courtesy of Ellen Deitz Tucker
After learning that her sister had died in her hometown of Belmont, Ellen Deitz Tucker wasted little thought on the driver whose careening car had killed her.
She wondered instead about the local police. Why would officers risk innocent lives by chasing someone at 80 mph?
Donna Deitz, 60, and her lifelong friend Kevin Loftin, 56, a former Belmont mayor, were returning from an Ash Wednesday service that night in February 2012. An Acura SUV driven by Lester Saunders Norman Jr., with police in pursuit, smashed into Loftin’s Audi.
Then-police Chief Charlie Franklin told reporters that officers pursued Norman because his vehicle had nearly struck two officers when he pulled away from a DWI checkpoint. Norman was on federal probation and didn’t have a driver’s license.
Franklin said that Norman, after being captured while running from the crash, had said he didn’t want to return to prison.
Tucker, a writer and editor for an educational nonprofit who lives in California, wasn’t satisfied.
Her search for answers led her to file a lawsuit to win access to a report of an outside investigation of the Belmont Police Department. It also made her story part of North Carolina’s annual Sunshine Week, which begins March 12 and is devoted to access to public records.
“It just seemed to me,” Tucker said, “that the public deserved to know what they paid for.”
Tucker and her brother, Dan Deitz, questioned what they viewed as the police department’s “highly improbable” account of the pursuit that started on Interstate 85, including statements that Norman had approached a checkpoint at high speed, was drunk and drove toward officers.
Norman’s car initially didn’t move fast as he pulled away from police because it had a bad transmission, Tucker said she learned through a private investigator the family hired.
After exiting the highway, though, the SUV gained speed as it traveled downhill on Park Street toward a busy intersection of Wilkinson Boulevard. Investigators estimated Norman’s speed at 80 mph.
Kevin Loftin, driving west on Wilkinson, was known to be a slow driver. Classical music played on the radio. His car windows were up on a dark, misty night.
The stoplight turned green for Loftin just after it turned red for Norman. Two police cars were a few lengths behind him.
Norman didn’t stop and crashed into Loftin’s car. Loftin and Deitz died at the scene.
Norman was sentenced, after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, to up to 32 years in prison in late 2012. At his sentencing, he had looked at Tucker but said nothing. A year later, he wrote Donna Deitz’ family a neatly penciled letter of apology.
He hadn’t said anything in court, Norman wrote, because “Normally when a person apologizes to the court and the victims, most of the time it’s because they want mercy from the court. Although not all people are like that but the majority are and I don’t want to be looked upon as such.
“I made the absolute worst decision of my life driving away from that license check and it caused two people their lives. I take sole responsibility for that, and it’s a burden that weighs heavily on my heart everyday.”
The crash weighed heavily on Belmont, too. Local connections run long and deep in the town of 10,000 that was founded on cotton mills.
Loftin was a native son who led a controversial $1 million revitalization of downtown Belmont that ultimately cost him his seat as mayor. He took part in numerous church and civic activities.
Donna Deitz, Tucker’s older sister and their parents’ caregiver, was “an upbeat person who brought a lot of joy into the family.”
Their mother is still living at home. But after Donna’s death, Tucker said, her dad, Clyde Deitz, a former 19-year Belmont City Council member and Loftin’s mentor, went silent and died broken-hearted six months later at 99.
A year after the crash, the police department revised its policy on pursuits and check points. Tucker saw little improvement in the new policy, which deleted a “continuing physical threat” as grounds for a chase and replaced it with an explicit list of situations in which one would be allowed.
Franklin, then Belmont’s police chief, said his officers did nothing wrong.
“It’s a sad situation,” Franklin told Charlotte’s WCNC, “but Mr. Norman is responsible, not the Belmont Police Department.”
It was difficult to get facts about the crash from police, Tucker said, and she found information in press reports to be inconsistent.
Then, a retired police officer working as a private investigator in Charlotte who had seen an account of the crash on television knocked on the family’s door. The investigator, John Faber, also questioned the police actions. The family hired him to dig for answers.
Faber obtained the official police records of the chase and crash, including witness statements, lab reports and videos of police questioning Norman and a passenger in his vehicle. The family says the videos and witness accounts contradicted those of police.
“How does what (Norman) did differ from not caring who you kill to try to catch someone?” Tucker said.
Tucker and her brother sued the city in March 2013, charging that negligence allowed the pursuit to occur. They later dropped the suit.
When she read that Belmont had launched an outside investigation of its police department in late 2014, Tucker sent a 50-page summary of her investigator’s findings to the city manager and council members.
The next summer, she and her brother filed a public records request with the city for the investigation report. The city quickly denied the request, citing pledges of confidentiality given to police personnel that made it unable to release the report.
In August 2015 the siblings sued again with support from the Civitas Institute, which promotes transparency in government. The lawsuit alleged the city broke the state’s open records law by refusing to release the report.
Citizens across the state press for government records to be made public “in a way that would make the most dogged reporter proud,” said Jonathan Jones, director of the Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition at Elon University.
“What separates (Tucker) is that most folks are turned away by the sheer cost of pursuing this, and she found a way to make it work.”
Last August, under a judge’s order, the city released 22 of the report’s 160 pages, some heavily redacted. The internal investigation by U.S. ISS Agency, a private firm, focused on a “massive” number of internal complaints about the department’s management.
The investigation “found the (Belmont Police Department) to be a fractured organization with a corrosive work environment in which employees have been drawn into two camps, which are constantly in opposition based on personal loyalties,” the report said. “Policies and procedural guidelines are routinely ignored or circumvented.”
Investigators found a missing book, dated 2002, that contained highly sensitive criminal case files, drug purchases and confidential informants’ information. They found that most department employees hadn’t gotten raises in several years. The released pages don’t address the Deitz crash.
The report was presented in February 2015. The city fired police Chief Franklin in April 2015 for unsatisfactory job performance and detrimental personal conduct.
“I think I got an overview of the department culture in which something like this could happen,” Tucker said after winning partial access to the report.
Tucker says she has ambivalent feelings about Belmont.
Many people have shown kindnesses, she said. Neighbors fixed things at her parents’ house, and church members visited. But it was also hard to get residents to stand by her as she tried to get answers.
“So I have to say for all this to work, citizens need to care about their neighbor, they need to stick their neck out, sign a petition, attend a meeting, they need to read their newspaper,” Tucker said. “It takes work, not just on the part of journalists but on the public.”
Staff writer Doug Miller contributed.
Public records in North Carolina
Jonathan Jones, director of the Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition at Elon University, said the Belmont case illustrates how hard it can be to pry open public records. Filing a lawsuit, as Tucker did, is often the only option in North Carolina.
“It comes back to what I see as a fundamental breakdown in how transparency laws in North Carolina are working,” Jones said.
“It essentially becomes a dare to take us to court, and if you get taken to court (and lose) there’s not a lot of negative consequences…. Because there’s that court requirement, there’s no real incentive for a government agency to be transparent in the way they should, and in fact no real harm in failing to be transparent.”
Records are often withheld out of misunderstanding of the law or fear of repercussions, Jones said. Belmont’s city council, he said, had the authority to release all or part of the investigation report on its police department. It didn’t.
adminShe questioned police version of sister’s death – then fought for the truth
Local policies see sharp reduction in dangerous police pursuits
An average of five New Yorkers die each year, a USA Today Network analysis of federal crash data finds. Wochit
A police chase prompted by an alleged shoplifting incident at a CVS store in the town of Farmington last summer ended with a violent crash which took the lives of two passengers.
Each year, hundreds of people across the U.S. are killed in high-speed police chases, but this fatal crash on I-490 last year was the first pursuit in Monroe County in nearly a decade to end with a fatality.
Local police officials say that their policies, which define strict criteria under which pursuits can be conducted, have significantly reduced the number of dangerous pursuits.
But that progress has not been matched in other parts of New York.
An analysis of federal crash data by the USA Today Network found:
From 1995 to 2015, there were 100 deaths tied to high-speed police chases statewide. Between two and nine people died each year, with a median of five deaths annually.
Those 100 chase-related deaths occurred in 89 separate crashes in 38 of New York’s 62 counties. Two-thirds were outside New York City and Long Island.
One-fifth of those killed were pedestrians or drivers who were not involved in the chase. Two law enforcement officers were killed, and the remaining 78 were people in vehicles being pursued.
The data does not reflect the human impact of police chases, and they come at a time of both increasing scrutiny of pursuits and growing danger on the roadways.
The available federal data also does not include police pursuits that ended in nonfatal crashes, or where people involved later died from related injuries.
Death and injury
Sometimes the crashes result in death or injury to law enforcement officers. More often, the victims are people whose only connection to the chase was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The morning of Nov. 2, Adam M. VanCise, 35, of Palmyra, Wayne County, led Chemung County deputies and New York State Police officers on an hour-long chase. It began on foot in Horseheads, Chemung County, and ended in the crash on Route 352 in Corning.
Deputies said they had been seeking VanCise since he eluded them after allegedly taking items from the Walmart in Horseheads. According to reports, deputies say they picked up the trail after seeing VanCise steal a car from a woman in a nearby parking lot, then drive off.
Deputies are automatically authorized to pursue suspects if they feel the chase is necessary and if cause can be established, Chemung County Undersheriff William Schrom told the Elmira Star-Gazette at the time.
According to police reports, officers fell back when VanCise began driving west in the eastbound lanes of County Route 352, around Goff Road, “at a high rate of speed,” after an eight-mile pursuit.
Deputies then came upon the scene — VanCise’s vehicle struck another head-on. He died at the scene.
Occupants of the other vehicle, Dianne B. Box and Maureen A. LoPresto, both of Corning, were injured. They have filed separate notices of claim, signaling a possible lawsuit and claiming they sustained “permanent effects and permanent disfigurement” from a “recklessly” and “negligently” conducted police pursuit, stargazette.com reported.
Pursuit under scrutiny
Those who watch the numbers have been urging law enforcement agencies for years to re-evaluate their policies on pursuits. As far back as 1990, a National Institute of Justice report suggested known offenders who flee police be apprehended off the highways — in their homes or places they frequent.
The institute functions as the research arm of the federal Department of Justice, and is tasked with providing research to inform state and local law enforcement policy.
“Whether or not to engage in a high-speed chase then becomes a question of weighing the danger to the public of the chase itself against the danger to the public of the offender remaining at large,” the report stated. “For anyone other than a violent felon, the balance weighs against the high-speed chase.”
Some urban police departments, including Milwaukee and Orlando, allow vehicle chases only for known or suspected violent felons, according to a 2015 investigation by USA Today. Yet many other departments leave the judgment up to their officers.
Officials with the Rochester Police Department say that removing that decision from officers involved in the pursuit has played a critical role in reducing crashes. Supervisors must be notified immediately when a pursuit begins, and they will constantly monitor the course of the pursuit to evaluate whether it should be terminated.
“The officer involved in a pursuit is already multi-tasking,” said Deputy Chief Scott Peters. “He’s activating his lights, talking on the radio, observing what’s happening. He may not be looking at the big picture. Having a boss responsible for making the decision about whether to pursue gives us a degree of separation.”
The RPD policy on pursuits is 18 pages long, describing in detail the pursuit tactics that can be employed and the criteria under which pursuits are allowed. The factors considered include the seriousness of the incident, road conditions, speed, and knowledge of the offender’s identity.
Peters says that cameras, GPS locators, and other technology often helps them to identify the driver and allow them to make an arrest at a later time.
“The hardest thing for a police officer to do is turn those flashing lights off,” Peters said. “That’s our job, they pay us to go catch criminals.”
But there is also a recognition that these pursuits put people’s lives at risk, especially when they take place in dense urban areas.
“Going down a city street at 70 mph is always a dangerous and potentially deadly situation” Peters said.
The USA Today investigation also found police chases consistently led to about one death a day nationwide between 1990 and 2013. And last year, the newspaper found black people are killed in police chases at a rate nearly three times higher than any other demographic.
Both those reports and the data on New York state fatalities draw on the same source, a database maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which tracks hundreds of data points for every fatal vehicle crash in the nation each year. Police pursuit is one of those.
The data, though, has holes and oversights. USA Today found hundreds of cases in at least three states in which police reports indicate a high-speed chase took place but the incident does not appear in the database.
Moreover, a police pursuit ending in a nonfatal crash in New York would not appear in the database. No agency tracks those figures.
So it is possible some deaths in New York were not listed, and virtually certain police pursuits occurred in which people were injured but not immediately killed.
Two men were injured in a one-car crash in Irondequoit in January. That vehicle, which had been stolen, was being pursued by State Police after it nearly crashed head-on into a Rochester Police Department patrol car on Avenue A in the city.
No law enforcement department in New York or the nation forbids pursuit in any situation. More common are “restrictive” policies like in Dallas, Orlando and Los Angeles, discouraging pursuit for minor infractions or training of officers to de-escalate after a certain time or distance.
Even when officers follow department policies designed to de-escalate a pursuit, crashes can occur.
Chase started as alleged shoplifting
That was the case in the fatal crash on I-490 last summer. The pursuit began after an alleged shoplifting incident at a CVS store in Farmington, Ontario County.
Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero told the Democrat and Chronicle that the driver of the suspect vehicle sped up, reaching a “point where the deputy — following departmental protocols — backed off on the chase and the vehicle left his sight.”
Police say they believe the westbound Volkswagen Jetta hit a median and veered into a grassy ditch near I-490’s Exit 25, where it overturned and came to rest. The driver, Noah Marinelli, 33, of Canandaigua, died at the scene, and the passenger, Danielle Golding, 31, of Utica, died a week later.
According to FBI figures, motor vehicle crashes are the major cause of line-of-duty death for law enforcement officers, eclipsing violent death in the mid-2000s. They accounted for nearly 60 percent of deaths to police in 2015, the last year for which figures were available.
In 2015, the FBI’s annual Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report found 45 were killed accidentally nationwide, compared with 41 during law enforcement activities like making arrests or executing high-risk entries.
The accidental death category includes crashes of all types, both during high-speed chases and ordinary road patrol. Twenty-nine of those deaths came in automobile accidents, and another four in motorcycle crashes.
Since 2006, 392 of the 577 deaths to law enforcement officers — 68 percent — came through auto and other accidents.
One of those was New York State Trooper Craig J. Todeschini, who was killed April 23, 2006, during a pursuit of a motorcycle on Route 91 in Pompey Hill, Onondaga County, that exceeded 100 mph. After about two miles, his Chevy Tahoe patrol vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree, according to state police.
The driver of the motorcycle, James Carncross, was convicted in 2006 of aggravated criminally negligent homicide and reckless driving. He was paroled in 2016.
In response, New York passed the Trooper Craig Todeschini Bill, which created the crime of fleeing from a police officer in a motor vehicle.
Highways in general are getting more dangerous. Earlier this month, the National Safety Council, a nonprofit whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths in homes, communities and on the roads, estimated motor vehicle deaths in 2016 rose 6 percent over the previous year. The total topped 40,000 for the first time since 2007, and was up 14 percent since 2014.
“Pursuits are not fun. They put everybody in danger, including the officer,” Brockport Chief Daniel Varrenti told the Democrat and Chronicle last year. “When we can avoid them we will.”
Between 1995 and 2015, there were 100 deaths tied to high-speed police chases statewide. Between two and nine people died each year, with a median of five deaths annually.
Those 100 chase-related deaths occurred in 38 of New York’s 62 counties. Two-thirds of the total took place outside New York City and Long Island.
One-fifth of those killed were pedestrians or other drivers. Two law enforcement officers were killed, and the remaining 78 were people in vehicles being chased.
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.