by Jonathan Farris
Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
February 10, 2019
I’ve been feeling really sad for the past few days. Flashbacks to the most horrible time in my life.
On Friday night I received an email from the parents of a young man killed just three days earlier. His death was the result of yet another unnecessary police pursuit for a crime other than a violent felony.
Three days ago we had 1 son, (our only child ) that was a healthy 27 year old man. He had a beautiful girlfriend who was a healthy young 25 year old woman. Our lives changed on the morning of Feb. 6th, 2019 at 2:17 AM at the corner of Mineral Ave. and Santa Fe Highway 85 in Littleton, CO when both of them were killed by a habitual criminal.
This occurred while she (fleeing driver) was being pursued by the Douglas County Sheriffs in a high speed chase, over many miles, at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. It ended with a 100 mile per hour t-bone collision killing 2 beautiful young people starting their adult lives.
At this time my wife and I are and will be for a very long time numb inside. We wake up at night and all is well till that next second when we remember that we no longer have a son.
This should never have happened to anyone, ever. Thank you for listening and hope to hear more about Pursuit for change.
Parents of Ryan Carter
In addition to Ryan’s parents losing their only son, the parents of Ryan’s girlfriend will now have this unimaginable sorrow, because their daughter was also killed.
Two young souls. Two beautiful people with so much to offer the world. Two individuals who should have had many, many more years to live their lives.
Now what? Two sets of parents who must bury their kids. Two families who will never share another birthday with them; or another Christmas; or a special wedding; or perhaps a grandchild who will never be born…
Please, please trust me when I tell you that the pain of these realizations is crushing. And although time will, hopefully, lessen Ryan and Jayne’s parents’ suffering, a deep sorrow and mind-numbing heartbreak has now become part of their “new normal”.
Ryan & Jayne. Photo from Denver7 News
My heart aches for these parents, because, in flashbacks like it was only yesterday, I too lived this nightmare.
Every day I read of another innocent bystander needlessly dying. And every day I’m reminded that my son is gone. And until many, many more of you become truly outraged and insist that pursuit policies and laws be strengthened, there will always be another Ryan and Jayne and Paul.
I’m very pleased to announce the first FORMAL rollout of PursuitAlert – terrific safety technology from my friends Tim & Trish Morgan.
Learn more about their company here. https://www.pursuitalert.com/our-story
Here is the story about their first live rollout with Oconee County Sheriff’s Department. Awesome!
Videos are at the WSPA 7 News site linked below.
Police chase warning app launches in Oconee County
Oconee County Sheriffs Office is rolling out new technology to alert the public to high speed chases in their area. The way this technology works is when a high speed chase is happening in a 2 mile radius the public will be alerted.
The catch is that the citizen must have this free app PursuitAlert. It’s a project that’s been in the works for nearly two years.
The way it works is when a chase starts the deputy can hit a button on the device in their car and the alert goes out. Sheriff Mike Crenshaw says this isn’t just a benefit for the public but also the safety of their deputies and furthering investigations. The technology will allow them to track their speeds and routes while pursuing a suspect.
The sheriff says the cost for everything comes from the sheriff’s office and all the residents need to do to make this work is download the app. He even encourages parents who have kids at Clemson to download it too.
State And Local Law Enforcement Agencies Conducted An Estimated 68,000 Vehicle Pursuits In 2012
NEWS PROVIDED BY Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs May 09, 2017, 10:00 ET
WASHINGTON, May 9, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — General purpose state and local law enforcement agencies conducted an estimated 68,000 vehicle pursuits in 2012 for an average of 186 pursuits per day, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Local police departments conducted most of these pursuits (about 40,000) followed by sheriffs’ offices (about 18,000) and state police and highway patrol agencies (about 10,000).
These findings are based on data from the most recent (2013) BJS Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics survey, which included a nationally representative sample of general purpose state and local law enforcement agencies. It excluded federal agencies and special jurisdiction agencies (such as campus and park police).
In 2012, all local police departments serving 250,000 or more residents and nearly all (95 percent) of those serving 50,000 to 249,999 residents conducted vehicle pursuits. In comparison, fewer than half of local police departments serving fewer than 10,000 residents conducted vehicle pursuits.
Among sheriffs’ offices, about 9 in 10 agencies serving 100,000 or more residents, eight in 10 agencies serving 25,000 to 99,999 residents and seven in 10 agencies serving 10,000 to 24,999 residents conducted vehicle pursuits in 2012. In comparison, 43 percent of sheriffs’ offices serving fewer than 10,000 residents conducted vehicle pursuits.
During the 20-year aggregate period from 1996 to 2015, police vehicle pursuits resulted in more than 6,000 fatal crashes, according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which is maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation. These fatal crashes resulted in more than 7,000 deaths, an average of 355 per year (about one per day). Fatalities peaked in 2006 and 2007, with more than 400 deaths each year.
As of January 2013, all state police and highway patrol agencies and all local police departments serving 25,000 or more residents had a written vehicle pursuit policy. At least 95 percent of sheriffs’ offices in each population category of 10,000 or more had a written vehicle pursuit policy.
An estimated 2 percent of local police departments and 1 percent of sheriffs’ offices prohibited vehicle pursuits. No state police or highway patrol agencies prohibited pursuits. Most local police departments (71 percent), sheriffs’ offices (63 percent) and state law enforcement agencies (53 percent) had a policy that restricted pursuits based on specific criteria, such as speed, type of offense and surrounding conditions.
About 30 percent of state police and highway patrol agencies permitted officers to use their own discretion when deciding to initiate a vehicle pursuit. Smaller percentages of sheriffs’ offices (17 percent) and local police departments (13 percent) had discretionary pursuit policies.
Agencies with a policy that left pursuit decisions to an officer’s discretion had the highest vehicle pursuit rate (17 pursuits per 100 officers employed), while agencies that discouraged or prohibited pursuits had the lowest pursuit rate (2 per 100 officers). Agencies with a restrictive policy conducted 8 pursuits per 100 officers employed. Agencies with discretionary pursuit policies employed 11 percent of all officers and conducted 19 percent of all vehicle pursuits. In comparison, agencies with restrictive pursuit policies employed 78 percent of all officers and accounted for 69 percent of all pursuits.
The report, Police Vehicle Pursuits, 2012-2013 (NCJ 250545), was written by BJS statistician Brian A. Reaves (former). The report, related documents and additional information about BJS’s statistical publications and programs can be found on the BJS website at www.bjs.gov.
The Office of Justice Programs, headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan R. Hanson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP has six bureaus and offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART). More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.
Honorable Tom Barrett
Mayor, City of Milwaukee
200 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Dear Mayor Barrett,
On New Year’s Eve yet another Milwaukee police chase ended with the deaths of three – one being a two-year old child. I am beside myself with grief – for that child and for the City of Milwaukee.
How, other than in a totally political environment, could Milwaukee have fallen so very far in such a short time?
On Thursday, December 6, the Milwaukee Police Department announced that carjackings were down. Fox6Now reported that “Police credit change in pursuit policy for dramatic decrease in carjackings.” This is a story about Milwaukee’s quest to reduce joyriding and stolen vehicles. It is an honorable mission, but officials are using a seriously flawed and incredibly deadly battle plan.
Is it not true that carjackings were already declining under the former, safer pursuit policy, because that policy specifically did permit pursuits of carjackers?
Almost all of Milwaukee’s 2018 pursuit-related deaths and many injuries were as a direct result of MPD’s new, weakened policy that permits dangerous high-speed chases for traffic offenses. Yet it would appear that this new policy’s only actual results are many more dangerous chases, more innocent bystander deaths and injuries, and even an officer’s death – virtually all for non-violent felony pursuits.
Fox story referenced a critical statistic. “In 2017, there were 386 pursuits. As of Dec. 6, 2018, there had been more than 800.” These stats indicate MPD will conduct over 900 pursuits in 2018. Officers and innocent citizens were placed in danger 500 times more in 2018 than in 2017. How can this be acceptable to anyone?
Milwaukee residents and visitors to the city have a very real reason to be frightened. Think about it: These stats represent an average of 18 life-endangering pursuits per week, and that does not include the many pursuits started in surrounding jurisdictions which later cross into Milwaukee.
So, I ask you sir, “What is the price, in human life and suffering, that Milwaukee is willing to pay to apprehend speeders, other non-violent felony driving violators and stolen vehicles?”
I also ask you another critical question. “What happens to those who are apprehended under this revised and dangerous policy?” I contend that the answer is no different than under the previous MPD administration’s more restrictive and safer pursuit policies – not enough.
There are many other questions you should be asking and answering.
Based on 18 pursuits per day, do you REALLY BELIEVE this new policy is working?
Does the DA ever charge for “felony eluding?” I haven’t heard anything about that.
What happens to apprehended car thieves?
Are all of these “dangerous criminals” being convicted?
Are these criminals ultimately serving any jail time, or simply being released back onto the streets 48 hours after their apprehension?
How many stolen-vehicle pursuits end in the stolen vehicle being totaled or damaged anyway?
With an obscenely high 900 pursuits in 2018, have you consider comparing Milwaukee with other major cities? I am willing to bet that such a study will show Milwaukee is wildly out of statistical norms.
If this greatly weakened pursuit policy is actually working, shouldn’t pursuits be declining, not rising like a SpaceX rocket?
And, if this policy was actually working, shouldn’t pursuit-related deaths and injuries be declining? That is obviously NOT the case.
In the New Year’s Eve pursuit, both the old and new policies would have authorized the initiation of a pursuit. But there are still questions even in this case.
Was policy followed once the pursuit exceeded 80mph on city streets?
At what point should the safety of citizens have been deemed more important (by the pursuing officers and their command) than the desire for immediate apprehension of this suspect?
Did any of the pursuing officers have MPD’s already-deployed GPS technology? That would have allowed a tag and follow-safely scenario.
Finally, consider this:
If that little girl had been a hostage held in a building, she likely would have been freed during MPD’s hostage negotiations. But there is no negotiating at 90 mph, just sudden and unnecessary death.
If officers had shot and killed as many people as have died in Milwaukee’s 2018 pursuits, you and city alderpersons would be demanding investigations, changes, and corrective actions. Yet, because these deaths were caused by 3,000-pound bullets and not those fired from guns, there is a deafening silence from city officials.
There is no dishonor for public officials to reassess policies that are not working. In fact, that is an obligation. Yet I contend, for contentious political reasons, Milwaukee officials are conveniently ignoring the facts and are forgetting those killed and injured in these 2018 chases.
These people, their stories, their families and their friends simply end up as collateral damage, forgotten before the wreckage is swept from the street.
But I do not forget. Ever. It’s personal for me; and has been since my son was killed in an equally unnecessary police chase.
Innocents are already killed too often in violent felony situations. Unnecessary bystander deaths as a result of non-violent felony chases makes it even more critical that Milwaukee return to a safer, violent felony-only pursuit policy.
If you missed the daily carnage reports, here are several truly horrible 2018 consequences caused by Milwaukee’s weakened pursuit policies.
Milwaukee police officer Charles Irvine killed. LINK
Other major cities invest in training and technology to reduce pursuits and still catch criminals. Milwaukee already has an excellent start using technology that will reduce the need for unnecessary pursuits. As I understand, the original MPD 2018 budget had additional funds allocated to equip even more police vehicles with GPS technology. Did they take advantage of this?
Unless saner minds prevail, there will most certainly be more Milwaukee police chase deaths, injuries and the lawsuits that will follow.
Mayor, you and I both know that Milwaukee CAN do better. Milwaukee MUST do better. Much better. But it takes a committed and courageous leader to drive such a change. I truly hope that you are such a leader.
Wishing Milwaukee a significantly safer 2019.
Pursuit For Change
adminAn Open Letter to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett
I recently read about your desire to pass legislation creating greater consistency in pursuit-policies across Georgia jurisdictions (news story below). It was disappointing that your SB 42 was unable to gain traction. I obviously don’t need to tell you, but legislation affecting and mandating law enforcement follow certain rules is an incredibly tough hill to climb.
I applaud your efforts and I know it is critically important for laws to be changed if we truly want to save bystander and law enforcement officer lives. It is especially important to me because my 23-year old son was an innocent victim, killed in a totally unnecessary, misdemeanor traffic violation pursuit outside of Boston.
My name is Jon Farris. I am the founder and Chief Advocate of Pursuit For Change, a national police pursuit victims’ advocacy group. The organization works with legislators, media and law enforcement. We are primarily focused on LEO departmental pursuit policies, laws related to pursuits, pursuit reduction technology and increased officer driving training. Each of these actions will reduce unnecessary police chases and prevent innocent citizen and police officer deaths and injuries. We continue to work toward the following goals:
Mandatory Federal Statistical Tracking of pursuit injuries and deaths
Greater grant funding to support law enforcement usage of pursuit reduction technology
Law enforcement funding for pursuit driving training
Pursuit policy modifications including greater inter-jurisdictional policy consistency and movement toward violent felony-only pursuits
Jonesboro Democrat wants police chase policy for all of Georgia
Posted: 4:08 p.m. Friday, December 14, 2018
A southwest Atlanta woman was heading to church in January 2016 with her two grandchildren when a man fleeing College Park police slammed into their car, killing all three. Now their family is urging Georgia lawmakers to establish a statewide policy for when officers should pursue a suspect and when they should call off that chase to keep the public safe.
“State Patrol gets a year of training,” said Doug Partridge, whose children and mother-in-law were killed in the crash. “But city police aren’t getting enough training to know how to handle these chases.”
While statewide statistics weren’t available, the loss of Partridge’s family members isn’t an isolated incident. A South Fulton police officer pursuing a stolen vehicle last month collided with a van, killing three men.
State Sen. Gail Davenport, D-Jonesboro, said she plans to file legislation in January that would create a standard for state, county and city police agencies that authorize police pursuits. She proposed a similar bill in 2016, but it received no traction.
“We support the police. We respect the police,” she said. “But we want to make sure no innocent lives are lost.”
Law enforcement officials who spoke at a hearing Friday to study police pursuits agreed that specialized training was necessary to keep the public and officers safe, but they told senators they believe those decisions should be made by each jurisdiction.
“I know that a lot of times the incidents that occur are very difficult, and they’re ones that are very emotional,” Georgia State Patrol Col. Mark McDonough said. “But for the bigger picture, I think that it’s important … that folks need to realize that when a police officer signals them to pull over, it’s their responsibility under the law to do so.”
Some local jurisdictions, including Atlanta and Dunwoody, don’t allow officers to pursue cars when the driver isn’t actively violent or accused of committing a felony. South Fulton police changed their policy on pursuing stolen cars Nov. 27, about two weeks after last month’s fatal crash.
It is up to the officer to weigh the seriousness of the crime against the threat of endangering the public and decide whether to call off the pursuit.
Joi Partridge said she wants officers statewide to get the proper training to know when it becomes unsafe to the public to continue to pursue a suspect who is fleeing — such as when the chase enters a neighborhood. Had that been the policy of College Park officers in 2016, she said she believes her mother, 12-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter would still be alive.
“It doesn’t make sense to chase through a neighborhood where the speed limit is 25 or 35 miles an hour,” she said. “After the accident, they didn’t even apprehend the suspect.”
Partridge and her husband are suing the College Park and Atlanta police departments in the deaths in their family.
Police pursuits: Are they worth risk of injury, death?
An OpEd by Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
Thanks for an interesting and in-depth story regarding police pursuits in your area. I am encouraged when reporters delve into this national issue.
It is very clear that Richmond Police Department, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police all have weak pursuit policies compared with more progressive jurisdictions across the US. Those stronger policies specifically define (and limit) when an officer can and cannot chase.
Over and over and over we listen to chiefs and sheriffs with similarly lacking policies espouse their excellent training and how qualified their officers are to decide when and how long and how far and how fast to pursue. Yet over 90% of pursuits are started after a non violent felony crimes – crimes which were not endangering anyone, like 4-year-old Madilynn Roberts above, UNTIL THE PURSUIT BEGAN.
As a result of departments continuing to sanction pursuits for non violent felony crimes and misdemeanor infractions, thousands of innocent citizens are killed and/or maimed annually. Additionally, on average, seven (7) LEOs are killed and scores more are injured. Six (6) officers have been killed in pursuit-related crashes so far in 2018.
Although there are a handful of states that mandate reporting of pursuit-related deaths, there is still no mandatory 50-State or Federal tracking of police chase-related deaths or injuries. As a result, we know there are many more pursuit injuries and deaths that are simply tallied as vehicular “accidents.”
Yet dangerous police chases persist like an antibiotic-resistant pandemic. Way too often we hear the exact same comment from departmental leadership, “We feel we’re doing as much as we can.” But they are NOT. If they were truly doing “all that they could,” then their pursuit-driving policies would be significantly stronger and they would cease to put their officers and innocent citizen at risk for petty crimes and misdemeanor traffic violations.
At Pursuit For Change and Pursuit Response we are working to highlight and actually do something about this massive public travesty. We are working diligently with state and Federal legislators for:
– Mandatory Federal Statistical Tracking of pursuit injuries and deaths
– Greater grant funding to support law enforcement usage of pursuit reduction technology – Law enforcement funding for significantly more pursuit driving training – Pursuit policy modifications including greater inter-jurisdictional policy consistency and movement toward violent felony-only pursuits
Thanks again for your reporting. It is critical that you and other reporters keep asking the difficult questions. Too many folks in the general public have no idea how pervasive the #PoliceChase problem is. And too often they find out TOO LATE – only after a loved one is killed or seriously injured.
So, to answer your question, non violent felony pursuits ARE SIMPLY NOT worth the risk of injury and death to LEOs and innocent bystanders.
Police pursuits: Are they worth risk of injury, death?
by Mike Emery (@PI_Emory) (email@example.com)
Updated 9:36 a.m. ET Dec. 21, 2018
RICHMOND, Ind. — A tree occupied space where the white Ford’s passenger side should have been. The flying car had smashed sideways into the tree and wrapped itself partially around the trunk.
It looked horrendous as Richmond Fire Department personnel worked to free a 23-year-old passenger from the vehicle. Haley Caldwell and 4-year-old Madilynn Roberts both sustained serious injuries when the 19-year-old driver, Daniel Zenon Arguijo, lost control of the Ford while leading police on a high-speed pursuit Nov. 30 down U.S. 40. The incident sparked a social-media debate about the value of that pursuit versus the risk associated with it.
The injuries were serious, but not fatal. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case when suspects flee police. And about a third of those who do die aren’t even involved in the pursuits.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released statistics that the United States recorded 7,090 deaths related to police pursuits for the 20-year period from 1996 through 2015. That averages 355 — or nearly one a day — per year. Of those deaths, 88 were law enforcement officers, 4,637 were in the vehicle being chased, 2,088 were in a vehicle not involved and 277 were innocent bystanders.
Which leads to the important question for communities and law enforcement agencies: Are police pursuits worth it?
Richmond Police Department, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police all have policies and procedures in place that permit officers to pursue fleeing suspects at the officer’s discretion. Nationwide, some agencies absolutely prohibit vehicle pursuits. Those agencies decided the risks to citizen and officer safety outweigh the need for suspect apprehension.
Accidents, injuries and worse occur regularly nationwide when drivers flee law enforcement and officers choose to pursue. According to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics’ analysis of the International Association of Chiefs of Police pursuit database, 15 percent of pursuits end in crashes. The database recorded 5,568 pursuits from 115 agencies from 2009 to 2013. One in every 200 pursuits in the database ended with a fatality, and there were two serious and 10 minor injuries for every 100 pursuits.
Those serious accidents and deaths occur in Wayne County, too.
Police pursuits in Wayne County over the years
A review of Pal Item stories involving police pursuits from 2011 through 2018 revealed 18 chases that ended in crashes. Two of those crashes killed the driver of the fleeing vehicle.
On March 11, 2013, Richmond Police Department pursued a wanted man onto Indiana 227. Even though officers discontinued the pursuit because of weather conditions and the dangerous way the suspect operated his Pontiac, the vehicle left the roadway and struck two trees, killing the driver.
On May 23, 2017, the Indiana State Police pulled over a driver in Henry County, and when the officer suspected impairment and asked the driver to step out of the car, the driver sped off. When entering Wayne County, the Cadillac was speeding enough to fly over a cable barrier in the median into oncoming westbound traffic. A head-on collision with a pickup killed the fleeing driver and injured two people in the pickup.
Even since the Nov. 30 incident, there have been pursuit incidents in Wayne County and Indiana.
A Muncie man escaped one multi-county pursuit of his Ford on Dec. 17, then led another pursuit after state troopers located him in Wayne County. David Reed Shoemaker, 43, lost control of his Ford, which left Mineral Springs Road and came to rest on its side in a wooded area. Shoemaker was not seriously injured.
An Indiana police officer was not as lucky Dec. 12. Hundreds attended Tuesday’s funeral services for Sgt. Benton Bertram, 33, in Charlestown, Indiana. The nine-year veteran of the Charlestown Police Department died when his police vehicle left Indiana 3 in Scott County and struck a tree. According to the online Officer Down Memorial Page, Bertram is the sixth law enforcement officer in the United States to die this year while engaged in a police pursuit.
Officers constantly balance community safety with the need to engage in pursuits or let suspects go
Of the 7,090 deaths related to pursuits from 1996 through 2015, 192 occurred in Indiana and 231 in Ohio. Seven of the Indiana deaths were police officers, 129 were people in the fleeing vehicle, 53 were people in another vehicle and three were bystanders. In Ohio, one was an officer, 100 were in fleeing vehicles, 116 were in other vehicles and 14 were bystanders.
By any count, pursuits pose one of the most dangerous actions police officers face. Officers must constantly balance community safety with the need to pursue. Is the community safe if officers let the suspect go? Is the community safe if officers continue to pursue?
It’s a tough spot with no easy answers.
“We’ll let people go we shouldn’t have,” RPD Chief Jim Branum said, “but it’s better to err on the side of caution.”
Branum said RPD has had 14 vehicle pursuits during 2018. None of those ended in an accident or with injuries.
And that’s how pursuits most often end. The International Association of Chiefs of Police database shows the pursued driver gives up and stops 29 percent of the time and 25 percent end when the police discontinue the pursuit, 17 percent end with the suspect eluding officers, 9 percent end with police intervention and 2 percent end with the suspect vehicle becoming disabled. Those cause no harm; however, the 15 percent that involve collisions do.
And that’s a rate too steep for some. The Bureau of Justice Statistics said an estimated 2 percent of local police forces and 1 percent of sheriff’s offices prohibited vehicle pursuits completely. Allowing a suspect to escape, though, runs against officers’ instincts.
“It’s tough to tell a young policeman to let a violator go, because catching the bad guy is what they’re hired to do,” Branum said. “Then, letting this person go, is that a danger to the public, as well?”
RPD, sheriff’s department and state police policies allow pursuits; however, they list factors an officer should consider when deciding to pursue. The factors include:
The severity of the offense committed by the suspect, which can be complicated by the fact the act of fleeing in a vehicle is a felony itself in Indiana;
Whether the suspect can be identified for later arrest;
The safety of those involved and the general public;
The amount of traffic on the roadway;
The time of day;
The speeds associated with the pursuit:
The road conditions; and
The perceived driving ability of the suspect, such as if the driver an inexperienced teenager.
Those factors must continuously be considered as the officer pursues. The three departments also allow officers and supervisors the authority to discontinue a pursuit at any time.
“There are lots of things to consider in a short amount of time,” said Branum, who noted he has discontinued pursuits as a supervisor. “And they’re all things you learned after becoming a police officer.”
The rules also lay out procedures and techniques for the execution of pursuits. All three agencies also then require a review of each pursuit that analyzes justification for the pursuit, the communication involved, the supervisors’ roles, equipment or training needs, disciplinary concerns and policy or procedure revisions.
Sheriff Jeff Cappa said the sheriff’s department policy meets the standards established by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which has accredited the agency.
“I have a very professional staff, and they’re trained very well,” said Cappa, whose agency was involved in five pursuits during 2017 with no accidents or injuries. “They understand what the job requires in those situations.”
Traffic violations are primary reason why police pursuits begin, but officers often left wondering why suspects flee
The chase of Arguijo that ended with the Ford wrapped around a tree began with Arguijo running a stop sign and nearly striking Patrolman Adam Blanton’s vehicle. Arguijo sped away when Blanton turned to attempt a traffic stop.
That’s the most common reason for pursuits to begin, according to the Chiefs of Police database. Traffic violations trigger 69 percent of the pursuits, including 16 percent for speeding, 13 percent for reckless driving and 12 percent for suspicion of impaired driving. Suspects thought to have committed non-violent felonies — often auto theft — account for 12 percent of the pursuits, violent felonies for 9 percent and misdemeanors for 8 percent.
Pal Item stories about pursuits included those beginning for traffic stops, but officers also pursued a Florida murder suspect, an attempted murder suspect, robbery suspects, break-in suspects, suspects wanted on warrants, counterfeiters and suspected stolen vehicles. Even with traffic stops, there’s reason for officers to wonder why a suspect would commit a felony — the fleeing — to avoid a simple traffic citation.
“You don’t know why the person is fleeing,” Branum said.
During Blanton’s pursuit of Arguijo, the officer showed awareness of the traffic conditions on U.S. 40, which were lighter than expected at the time of the pursuit, and the fact other drivers were aware of Blanton and pulling to the side even before Arguijo reached them, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Blanton also noted he could not get close enough to procure Arguijo’s license plate number and that he was losing ground to Arguijo.
Still, Arguijo lost control when a vehicle pulled out of a shopping center entrance in front of him. Arguijo was later found to be under the influence of methamphetamine when he fled, running six stop signs and five red lights before he crashed. He has been charged with Level 5 felony resisting law enforcement causing serious injury, two counts of Level 6 felony driving under the influence of a controlled substance and causing serious injury, Level 6 felony criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon, Class A misdemeanor operating under the influence of a controlled substance while endangering a person and Class C misdemeanor operating under the influence of methamphetamine.
Shoemaker, who also crashed his Ford, fled to avoid a traffic stop in Muncie. He led police through four counties before his crash west of Centerville. Shoemaker was jailed on charges of Level 5 operating as a habitual traffic violator with a lifetime suspension and Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement.
Both men exceeded 90 miles per hour while they were being chased. The pursuit database shows 23 percent of pursuits topped 90 mph and 45 percent exceeded 70 mph. Wayne County pursuits regularly reach high speeds because of the roads that cross the county, including Interstate 70, U.S. 40, U.S. 35, Indiana 38 and Indiana 1.
Those roads also contribute to pursuits entering the county from other Indiana counties, such as Shoemaker, and from other states. Pal Item stories reflected pursuits that began in Delaware, Randolph, Henry, Union and Marion counties in Indiana, plus Preble and Montgomery counties in Ohio. In those instances, the Wayne County officers assist other agencies. On I-70, Branum said, local officers often are just asked to block exit ramps to keep the pursuit on the highway.
How police pursuits end: from stop sticks to roadblocks and other immobilization techniques
The proximity to the state border also means local pursuits travel into Ohio. Agency policies dictate what pursuits may be continued into Ohio and local officers’ roles once entering the neighboring state.
While the suspect driver in a pursuit might have a destination in mind, leaving pursuing officers “trying to keep up,” Branum said, officers have the advantage of their radios. That’s especially true now that the county has a centralized 911 center that dispatches calls for all county agencies. Dispatchers can communicate with every unit in the county, plus alert neighboring counties and states during a pursuit.
“It’s nearly impossible to outrun the radio, even if you can outrun the car,” Branum said.
The best conclusion to any pursuit is for the fleeing driver to pull over and surrender. Some will bail from their vehicles and attempt to run away from officers, which still is safer than high-speed pursuits. Other than that, officers can use tire deflators (stop sticks), roadblocks and sheer numbers to stop a fleeing vehicle. Only the state police permits precision immobilization techniques where officers use their vehicles to contact the fleeing vehicle, and then only under strict circumstances, such as lower speeds and by trained officers.
“The strategy is that there are enough units in the area so that the driver decides there’s no place to go,” said Branum, who noted stop sticks are never used on fleeing motorcycles that would crash as a result.
Pal Item pursuit stories noted five pursuits that were ended using stop sticks. Other pursuits ended when the fleeing drivers pulled into driveways, abandoned vehicles and ran, plowed into farm fields, traveled into yards, drove through a fence, struck law enforcement vehicles and crashed.
At least two technology-based ideas have been developed to assist officers in pursuits, but neither has become commonly accepted or used.
One idea involves firing a small, adhesive, GPS tag onto a fleeing vehicle from a launcher located behind the police vehicle’s grille. That allows officers to back off and track the suspect vehicle on a computer, delaying the arrest but eliminating a possibly dangerous pursuit. One drawback, however, is that a police vehicle equipped to fire the GPS tag must get close enough to the fleeing vehicle to attach the tag.
Another idea involves using a remote to disable the engine of a fleeing vehicle. Branum said he wonders how the fleeing vehicle would react if the engine suddenly shuts down at high speed.
Of pursuits in the Chiefs of Police database, 57 percent ended within three minutes and 66 percent covered less than three miles. The data shows that the longer a pursuit lasts and when more law enforcement vehicles become involved the likelihood of a crash increases.
Cappa and Branum said their officers are trained in emergency vehicle operation when they attend the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy for their initial training. The state then requires additional annual training in operating emergency vehicles. The training is classroom training and in-car training. Cappa said his officers received both kinds of training this year, while Branum said RPD alternates years between classroom and road training.
The road training, he said, usually is done at the Richmond Municipal Airport on a timed course that tests the necessary skills. Officers drive their day-to-day vehicles when training.
“We feel we’re doing as much as we can,” Branum said.
That training, however, does not make officers, such as Sgt. Bertram, infallible when in pursuit. Also, the drivers fleeing from law enforcement do not receive such training. And their vehicles might not be pursuit ready such as law enforcement pursuit-certified vehicles. Those drivers, much like Arguijo and Shoemaker, can lose control and crash.
In the end, officers must quickly and continuously weigh many factors and reach a decision about engaging in a pursuit.
“I think part of how you combat that is have a policy in place, have guidelines and lay down for the officers that these are the rules,” Branum said. “I think we’ve done well the past three of four years I’ve had reason to monitor it.”
Most times the officer will apprehend a driver who chose to flee, and sometimes that driver will present a clear — if not deadly — danger to society. But other times, suspects, police officers and innocent bystanders will also continue to sustain serious injuries and lose their lives because of police pursuits.
Which leads back to the important question for communities and law enforcement agencies: Are police pursuits worth it?
adminPolice pursuits: Are they worth risk of injury, death?
Typically when you hear me speak, or you read stories in which I’ve been quoted, I discuss why law enforcement had better options than a dangerous pursuit. And there definitelyare options. Purchase, implementation and usage of pursuit reduction technology tools (see PursuitResponse.org); significantly more pursuit driving training; stricter emergency vehicle operations requirements and pursuit driving policies. And the list goes on.
To that end, PFC continues to actively support law enforcement in the acquisition of technology tools and with officer safety training (@Below100).
Given that +90% of pursuits begin as the result of a misdemeanor traffic infraction or a property crime, it’s understandable why Pursuit For Change gets so many calls from media when innocent citizens are injured or killed in dangerous chases. And these calls happen frequently because someone is killed every day as the direct result of a police pursuit.
Every once in a while, however, I’m asked about a pursuit which began as the result of a violent felony. Josh Solomon, a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) called me several days ago and we had a long conversation about pursuits in general and specifically about the chase detailed in his story, included below.
In a nutshell, some bad person tried to force a woman into his vehicle. A nearby citizen called 911 and reported the assault.
The sheriff’s department responded immediately and a pursuit of the vehicle began. As you read the article you’ll learn that the fleeing driver lost control, crossed a median, and struck an innocent driver. Luckily the innocent victims survived the crash.
There are some questions surrounding the 911 call, all explained in the article. We’ll certainly learn more about the 911 Center’s follow-up communications as the investigation continues, but regardless I’m not entirely sure the pursuit could have been stopped quickly enough to prevent the crash.
Law enforcement officers have a tough job; one that requires risk assessment and often, immediate and decisive actions. LEOs need tools (strong policies; constant training; command support; etc.). We hire these folks to protect us from those willing to cause harm. I know there are way too many unnecessary chases but in many (most?) violent felony situations, we need law enforcement to do whatever is necessary to apprehend the criminal. Indeed, in these circumstances innocent citizens can be put at risk; but the need to remove these violent offenders from the street will almost always outweigh the need to break off a pursuit or to not pursue in the first place.
Josh asked me if I thought the chase was justified. My opinion? This was a violent abduction attempt. When the deputies arrived, everyone assumed the woman was in that fleeing vehicle. And even though the pursuit put the victim at risk, not pursuing likely would have placed her in even greater peril. So in this violent felony situation, with what was known at the time of first police contact, a pursuit was certainly justified.
A high-speed chase. A deadly crash. Did Pasco deputies get the right info?
by Josh Solomon (@ByJoshSolomon) Tampa Bay Times staff writer
Published: October 25, 2018
Two days after a suspect died while leading deputies on a high-speed pursuit, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco stood in front of reporters and praised the “heroism” of his deputies for trying to save a kidnapped woman trapped inside the fleeing car.
The woman, though, wasn’t in the car.
Just 28 seconds after the Oct. 13 pursuit started, her voice can be heard in the 911 call made from a gas station.
That crucial information never made it to deputies.
They continued the 2½-minute pursuit on State Road 54 until the fleeing driver crossed the median and drove into oncoming traffic, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. The incident ended in a fiery head-on collision with an oncoming pickup truck. The suspect died. The pickup driver was seriously injured.
This latest incident underscores the dangers of high-speed pursuits, a risky law enforcement tactic that has drawn scrutiny across the county. High-speed pursuits have resulted in death and injury, prompting local agencies to restrict when officers can chase a suspect.
But what happens when those officers aren’t getting the most accurate information possible? In this case, Pasco deputies were in the dark about one critical element: There was no kidnapping victim to rescue.
Why wasn’t that relayed to the pursuing deputies? Would it have made a difference?
• • •
The recording of the 911 call, and the notes taken by the call-taker, detail what preceded the vehicle pursuit.
The caller, whose name was not made public, told the call-taker that at about 8:45 p.m. a woman, later identified as Melissa Mary Russo, 44, mouthed the words “help me” to him at the Circle K gas station at 17565 S.R. 54. She was with a man who was later identified as Michael Blomberg, 54.
“Something’s not right,” the caller said.
Then the situation escalated. Blomberg tried to force the woman into a black car, the caller told 911.
“He’s got her in a … headlock, it looks like,” the caller said. “He’s got her in a bear hug right now.”
Then the caller said the man drove away in a gray Chrysler 200 sedan. Deputies dispatched to the gas station started chasing the fleeing car.
A beat later, a female voice appears on the tape of the 911 call.
“Sir, is that the female with you?” the call-taker asked.
She was. The woman had escaped Blomberg’s car and run to the caller. This was 28 seconds after the event log shows the pursuit started.
“FEM WITH CALR,” the 911 call-taker wrote. “CALR HAS FEM IN HIS VEH.” CALR is the man who called 911. FEM is for the woman.
• • •
Here’s what happens when someone calls 911 in Pasco County: Call-takers type notes as they gather information from callers, such as the location and nature of emergencies.
The call-taker’s notes appear on the computer screens of dispatchers and deputies (via their vehicle laptops.) The dispatcher also speaks to deputies over the radio.
This setup allows one person to gather information from the caller while another focuses on sending the right kind of help: officers, firefighters or paramedics.
As deputies raced to the gas station, the recorded radio transmissions reveal the dispatcher briefing them en route using the call-taker’s notes: A woman mouthed “help me.” Her assailant put her in a headlock. He tried to force her into a car. The Chrysler was driving off.
Sheriff’s cruisers, lights and sirens blaring, quickly found the fleeing car.
Blomberg did not stop.
• • •
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office policy that governs pursuits first explains how dangerous they can be:
“Vehicle pursuits conducted by law enforcement personnel often present a significant risk of danger to the safety of the general public, the deputies involved, and the occupants of the fleeing vehicle. National studies have determined that most vehicle pursuit operations conducted by law enforcement are usually short in duration and often result in a crash.”
Therefore, the policy states, Pasco deputies are not allowed to engage in pursuits unless they determine that allowing the suspect to escape is a greater danger to the public than the pursuit itself.
The Pinellas and Hillsborough Sheriff’s Offices and the Clearwater and Tampa Police Departments spell out under what circumstances their officers can chase a fleeing suspect. All involve a list of violent felonies that would justify a high-speed chase.
But in Tampa Bay law enforcement, the Pasco sheriff’s policy is the most permissive, according to Jon Farris, whose advocacy group Pursuit for Change aims to reduce unnecessary police chases. He started it after his son was killed in a taxicab struck by a driver fleeing police in 2007.
Still, the chase policies in Clearwater, Hillsborough, Pasco and Tampa would all have justified a high-speed pursuit in the Pasco case because it involved a possible kidnapping.
“This one was a unique case,” Farris said of the Blomberg pursuit.
Based on what the deputies knew at the time, he said, the Oct. 13 pursuit was justified. But what if deputies had that missing piece of information?
• • •
As the 911 call-taker typed into the computer system that the woman was at the gas station, deputies were already chasing after the Chrysler.
The pursuit headed west on State Road 54. Deputies stayed in constant radio contact with dispatchers.
“Not stopping,” a deputy reported over the radio. “Speed 60.”
A dispatcher asks if the deputies can tell if a woman is in the car. They said they couldn’t. No one in dispatch, according to the radio recordings, told the deputies that the woman was back at the gas station.
During those frantic 2½-minutes, deputies tried to puncture the fleeing car’s tires by laying “Stop Sticks” — tire-deflating spikes — onto the roadway.
Two deputies pursued the Chrysler, and each one’s body camera captured how it ended: The car crossed the highway’s median, driving west into eastbound traffic. Then, just east of Gunn Highway, the Chrysler struck an oncoming pick-up truck head-on.
Deputies dragged Bloomberg from the wreckage and tried to revive him. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The body cameras showed deputies searching the backseat of the Chrysler for the kidnapping victim.
The pickup driver, Kirby Sober, 24, suffered burns and a severe leg injury, according to family attorney Hunter Higdon. Sober must now use a wheelchair. Doctors expect he will be able to walk again after a long recovery.
• • •
The dispatch center is under Pasco County government. County spokeswoman Tambrey Laine would not say if the deputies should have been told that the woman they were trying to rescue was not in the car.
Farris, though, said the information officers receive during a high-speed chase is critical because it determines whether the chase should continue.
“Typically when there is a pursuit the officers or deputies are being monitored by a supervisor who is involved in (making) the call of whether there’s a need to break it off,” he said.
But in this case, he said, “there’s what would appear to be a breakdown in communication.”
Laine said the dispatcher handled the Oct. 13 incident according to protocol. The dispatcher relays information to deputies until they arrive. Then the roles reverse and deputies start informing the dispatcher, she wrote in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times:
“As soon as deputies are engaged, communications begin to flow the other way, with the deputies communicating via radio from the scene to the dispatcher, who enters those notes into our computer system. The focus at this point is on the information the deputy, as a trained first responder, is relaying to the dispatcher.”
But Doll said that even if the pursuing deputies were told there was no kidnapping victim trapped in the fleeing vehicle, they may have still continued the pursuit. They would still have to confirm there was no one in danger.
“We just can’t take somebody’s word over the phone that it’s fact,” he said.
Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.
by Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
Police chases kill hundreds of people every year. At least one third of those killed are innocent bystanders. Additionally, law enforcement officers (LEO) are always at risk while chasing or while en route to a pursuit.
In 2017 five (5) law enforcement officers were killed in pursuits. This year through September, four (4) officers have fallen in chase-related incidents.
And because Federal and State statistical tracking is so weak, we have absolutely no idea how many innocent bystanders and LEOs have been injured as a result of pursuit-related driving incidents.
Although there are not many organizations focused specifically on reducing dangerous police chases, there are some.
US Capitol 2018. Photo by Jon Farris. All rights reserved.
During October of 2018, members of the PursuitResponse group, of which Pursuit For Change is a member, visited Washington DC to meet with legislators once again. PursuitResponse’s core members are technologists offering advanced tools designed to reduce active police chases and to increase LEOs’ hands-on training designed to help them remain safe during high-risk vehicle events. The orgainzation has also partnered with and are supported by advocates and law enforcement.
So we continue to meet and work with legislators who are interested in and support our mission to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries of citizens and law enforcement officers. We will accomplish this through training, advocacy, and additional legislation.
Mandatory Federal statistical tracking of pursuit injuries and deaths
Greater (and specifically earmarked) grant funding for utilization of pursuit reduction technology and high-risk vehicle driver training
Pursuit policy modifications, focusing on movement toward violent felony-only chases
Creating legislative partnerships and new legislation is always a slow process. But please know that we will not give up, because it is so important. This is especially true for those of us who have personally suffered a direct pursuit-related loss. We want to reduce the liklihood that it isn’t you who receives a life-changing 4:00AM call…
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial 2018. Photo by Jon Farris. All rights reserved.
Yet another #Milwaukee-area stolen car #policechase, this time in very dangerous weather conditions and residential areas. And we’re sure the owner’s #Insurance company will be incredibly unhappy that the stolen car was totaled.
That was the biggest concern for the neighbors. Right where the orange cone is is where the crash happened. Police had been talking — checking the video and got up on it. They saw somebody get out of the vehicle, come up the hill, and run through these trees into the neighborhood nearby.
It was a dangerous combination. High speed. Wet roads. And a tough curve. The result, a BMW left on its side wearing all the marks of a muddy rollover crash.
According to police, the driver would not stop after officers realized the car was stolen and tried to pull it over. The chase that followed did not last long, but the speeds got near 90.
Still, the crash did not stop one of the people inside from taking off and running into the neighborhood close by. Unfortunately, these criminals stealing cars and running from police and running into their neighborhood disrupting their lives stay diligent, keep your eyes open. Police lost him in a foot chase and spent much of Monday trying to track him down. He’s still out in this neighborhood somewhere, I just don’t know where.
Knowing that I literally just left going to the bank and then coming back, it’s fairly quiet when I come back, and there’s Glendale, Brown Deer and Milwaukee in my neighborhood, it feels like, God, is it really that bad?
One person was still in that stolen car and had to be taken to the hospital, but in this neighborhood, many are not stopping their normal routine.
This is a little too close to home, right now, I’m putting up my harvest decoration, I’m not going to let some kid running around stop me from doing that.
Police only had a vague description of the person who got away. The search for him is still ongoing. The other person who went to the hospital did not have serious injuries he’s only being described as an adult man from Milwaukee.
CLEARWATER — Police Chief Dan Slaughter suspended two officers and a detective after an internal investigation found an unauthorized car chase led to a crash that hurt an officer and two civilians.
Det. Frederick Lise, who led the pursuit after a stolen car drove away from a traffic stop in Largo, got 10 days suspension for violating two policies related to operating department vehicles and insubordination and candor. He will also be removed from the agency’s Special Enforcement Unit.
Officers Langston Woodie and Jesse Myers, the latter of whom was hurt in the crash at Rosery Road and Clearwater-Largo Road, were handed five days of suspension for violating the agency’s operating department vehicles policy. Woodie will also be removed from the Community Problem Response Team.
“We are sorry that a civilian got hurt. We’re concerned that our own employee got hurt,” Slaughter said. “We recognize we’ve made some errors here that we’re responsible for.”
The officers and detective could not be reached for comment.
One of the injured civilians, Zoe Applegate, declined to comment through her St. Petersburg lawyer, Sean McQuaid. But McQuaid said Applegate, 20, broke her wrist and underwent emergency wrist surgery at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. She also had multiple broken ribs and head and neck injuries. Her 2015 Chevy Cruze was totaled, he said.
“It was an extremely serious accident,” McQuaid said. “They had a green light and the officer just went right through the stoplight … It had to be a traumatic impact and a surprise to her.”
The passenger in her car, William Gamble, could not be reached for comment. His lawyer did not return a call requesting comment.
According to the internal investigation, a woman reported that her black Ford Expedition had been stolen at 9:25 p.m. May 29 from the Ross Norton Recreation Complex on S Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. About 23 minutes later, Lise, who was hired in 2014, saw the stolen car and started following as it traveled south on Missouri Avenue from Druid Road. Woodie, who was hired in 2016, and Myers, who was hired in 2007, drove up to help. A fourth officer positioned himself down the road to throw tire deflation sticks if needed.
The car pulled into a Wawa on Missouri Avenue just north of Rosery Road in Largo, according to the investigation. The officers tried to conduct a traffic stop, but the Expedition got away and pulled out of the Wawa.
What they should have done at that point, Slaughter said, was stop following the car, head back to the city and notify Largo police. Under Clearwater police policy, typically only violent felonies warrant a pursuit. A stolen car does not.
“It’s tough to do. I’ll admit it,” the chief said. “You get in this profession to try to catch bad guys, so as a police officer it’s very difficult to turn around and go the other direction, but it’s for good reason that this policy exists.”
Instead, the officers chased the car west on Rosery Road and through a red light at the intersection of Clearwater-Largo Road. None had their lights and sirens on — another problem, had the pursuit been authorized to begin with, Slaughter said.
“Even if a person had a misunderstanding on what he could or couldn’t do, there’s no excuse for not utilizing lights and sirens when following a vehicle like that,” the chief said.
Lise, Woodie and the driver of the stolen car made it through. Myers collided with Applegate’s car, heading south on Clearwater-Largo Road, in the intersection. His last recorded speed before the crash was 42 mph.A bystander told investigators he ran up to Myers’ car and started pounding on the door. The officer wasn’t responsive at first. When he came to, his first instinct was to check on the civilians in the other car and his police dog, Axe.
Applegate and Gamble were taken to Bayfront. Myers was treated at Morton Plant Hospital. Axe was checked out and cleared at an animal hospital.
Meanwhile, Lise and Woodie continued after the stolen car until it stopped at 18th Street SW and 10th Avenue SW. The occupants got out of the car and ran away. A suspect was later arrested after investigators found DNA and fingerprints linking him to the car.
All three officers said in interviews with investigators that they believe they violated the pursuit policy. Lise, who is also a member of a multi-department habitual offender monitoring task force, got an additional 5-day suspension because he didn’t keep his supervisors in both the task force and Clearwater police fully informed on what was happening.
It put the other two officers, knowing Lise was in the task force with other supervisors, “in a little bit of a quandary,” Slaughter said.
Times senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or email@example.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.
The driver of a Nissan Sentra didn’t have his headlights on during rainy weather on Nov. 16, 2016, so North Cornwall Township Patrolman Joseph Fischer pulled over driver Marvin Rosa for what he probably thought was a routine traffic stop.
But when Fischer approached, Rosa started driving again, this time with a vengeance, according to Fischer’s written testimony of events. He blew stop signs and red lights and drove 55 miles per hour on 16th Street before stopping again for Fischer, who was in pursuit, on Strawberry Alley at Center Street.
Then, while driving on Royal Road, he braked suddenly, causing Fisher’s patrol vehicle to rear-end his Sentra. That crash finally disabled Rosa’s vehicle, after which he fled on foot until police arrested him.
He later pleaded guilty to fleeing or attempting to elude an officer, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and a multitude of traffic violations.
Rosa is not the only person to throw caution to the wind and attempt to get away from Lebanon County police.
Police charged 59 people with attempting to flee or elude an officer in Lebanon County from 2014-16, almost all of them trying to escape in vehicles that police were pulling over and usually for a traffic violation. Some chases ended in fiery crashes, the death of the violator, injuries to unrelated drivers, and close calls for officers.
“Police pursuits are inherently dangerous,” said Cpl. Adam Reed, a state police spokesman.
Yet local police insist there are times when the benefits outweigh the risk.
James Cole of Lehigh County crashed into a house at 1444 N. 7th Street after leading North Lebanon Township police on a high speed chase.
How often are people hurt or injured in car chases?
According to data compiled by state police, more than 200 people were injured in Pennsylvania police pursuits in 2016. (Photo: By Daniel Walmer)
Only three people died as a result of police chases in Pennsylvania in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, according to a report compiled by state police. The report is based on information that municipal police departments are required to provide annually.
However, there were more than 800 crashes causing more than 200 injuries during chases, according to the report. There was also more than $1 million in damage to property belonging to innocent bystanders and $824,000 in damage to police vehicles.
In 2017, a person who tried to outrun police in Lebanon County died as a result. Brandon Small, 25, attempted to flee Lebanon Police but hit an electrical pole and died from injuries sustained in the crash, according to information provided by police.
How frequently do dangerous chases occur in Lebanon County?
Here are just a few of the cases from 2016 detailed in Lebanon County court records:
James Cole attempted to outrun North Lebanon Township police at 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2016 in a Nissan Altima after being stopped for going 53 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone, according to an affidavit of probable cause from Sergeant Timothy Knight. During the ensuing chase, he drove through multiple yards and a farmer’s field, drove at a police vehicle and just missed, and blew a stop sign, Knight wrote. Eventually, he lost control and crashed into a house on North Seventh Street. “The vehicle started a fire and we had to get the occupant out of the house,” Knight wrote.
Shane Petry drove a sports car through a fire police barricade, causing the fire policewoman to call police. He pulled over. When asked by North Lebanon Township Patrolman Gregory Behney for his license Petry “said ‘sure’ and reached toward his shifter and then hit the gas and started driving away at a high speed.” The chase ended as he was driving north on North Eighth Avenue, went through the Lehman Street red light, and hit a vehicle that was attempting to turn left form Lehman Street onto North Eighth Avenue. The woman driving that car appeared to be injured, Behney wrote.
Motorcyclist Victor Roman fled Lebanon police by driving on a sidewalk and on the opposite side of the road, forcing motorists and cyclists to bail.
Motorcyclist Adam Conway drove against traffic for about a mile on Route 22 and drove more than 50 miles per hour in a 25 mile-per-hour zone in Jonestown with pedestrians around.
Brandon Beatty hit two state police vehicles with his Subaru after driving more than 120 miles per hour on Route 22 and Route 743.
To be sure, not every case in which a person is charged for fleeing or eluding an officer is as dramatic. Gus Valmas faced the charge after failing to pull over in 2015, but police said he never exceeded 35 miles per hour during the pursuit.
Yet dangerous chases have also occurred more recently. In February, Harrisburg resident Francisco Rivera-Vazquez drove 115 miles per hour on Interstate 81 in Lebanon County while passing cars on the shoulder during a chase, according to police. In August, Myerstown resident Michael Richard Brown fled police and drove 88 miles per hour in a 15 mile-per-hour zone on West Mckinley Avenue in Jackson Township, police said.
Still, almost all drivers pull over when they see the flashing lights.
North Londonderry Township police have only been involved in seven pursuits since 2004, according to Police Chief Kevin Snyder. North Cornwall Township only averages 1-2 pursuits per year, Chief John Leahy said.
“Some (officers) can go their entire career without a vehicle pursuit, which is absolutely fine with me,” he said.
How do police decide whether to pursue?
Leahy said determining whether or not to chase a fleeing driver boils down to one basic rule: “when the risk to the general public outweighs what you are (pursuing) the person for, the chase needs to be terminated.”
Yet there are a multitude of factors that officers are trained to consider, local police chiefs said, including traffic volumes, the weather, likelihood of pedestrians in the area, and whether the officer has been able to get a license plate number.
“You’re going to make your decision in a matter of milliseconds,” Leahy said.
The nature of the violation that caused the officer to pull over the vehicle in the first place is also important.
“If it’s a suspected summary offense, the risk outweighs the benefits, so there’s other ways of pursuing that,” North Lebanon Township Police Chief Harold Easter said. “But if it’s a high-profile case, then everything is bumped up and we assume some more risk in order to get that person stopped, because if we (don’t) get them stopped, they might be killing somebody down the road.”
Yet even according to data self-reported by police departments, more than half of 2016 Pennsylvania police chases began with an attempt to pull someone over for a traffic violation and only 13 percent were due to felonies. Almost all of the pursuits in Lebanon County checked by the Lebanon Daily News began with traffic violations.
Pursuit For Change Chief Advocate Jonathan Farris would like to see chases limited to violent felons. Farris started Pursuit of Change after his son, Paul Farris, was killed while riding in a taxi that was struck by a motorist who was fleeing police.
“I do believe that no simple misdemeanor is worth putting law enforcement officers or bystanders at risk,” Farris wrote in an email. “It’s different if the police are chasing an active shooter, a carjacker, a rapist, etc. But no one will ever convince me that the death of my son and the driver of the taxi he was in should have occurred because of an insanely dangerous pursuit after a man who simply made an illegal u-turn and then ran because he didn’t have a valid license. But sadly, these sorts of senseless deaths continue to occur across the US every week and day.”
What are the official policies of Lebanon County police departments?
The Lebanon Daily News was unable to learn the details of various police pursuit policies in Lebanon County because state law mandates that such policies “shall be confidential and shall not be made available to general public.”
According to Snyder, the policies are something that “obviously don’t want the criminal element to know.”
Yet the “vast majority” of states, counties and cities nationwide will release their pursuit policies to the media when requested, Farris said.
“It seems silly to me that PA legislators mandated this,” he wrote.
Leahy said each officer is aware of the policies and procedures in effect and can be subject to disciplinary measures if those procedures aren’t followed.
How do police stop a fleeing vehicle?
In many cases, the technology for stopping someone who has fled has not changed much in the past decade. Aside from simply following, the most popular technique for many departments, including North Lebanon and North Londonderry, is using spikes that deflate the tires of the vehicle, causing it to eventually stop.
State police are trained to use the PIT maneuver, in which the officer intentionally makes contact with the side of the fleeing vehicle in such a way that the tires skid and spin out, according to Reed.
North Lebanon does not perform PIT maneuvers because of the danger involved and the significant training required to perform it safely, Easter said. Leahy said North Cornwall would not rule out ending the chase by making contact with the vehicle if circumstances justified it, such as pursuit of a violent felon whose freedom the officer believes puts the public at risk.
People who choose to flee are panicked, often because they have a suspended license, have an outstanding warrant, or are afraid of what the officer will find in the car, police said – but it’s still almost always a bad idea.
“Statistically speaking, it’s very rare that a person gets away and is not apprehended,” Reed said.
Across Pennsylvania, just 14 percent of fleeing vehicles successfully eluded police in 2016, according to the state police report.
Officers also warned that you even if you outrun a police vehicle, police can identify you through your license plate information. When you are apprehended, you’ll be looking at a possible felony and jail term, and almost certainly a worse sentence than you would have received for just pulling over.
Even after a chase starts, a person will be treated more favorably by law enforcement and the courts if they quickly end the chase, Easter said.
“They need to rethink it real fast and pull over, and if they’re driving under suspension, without a license – take your lumps,” he said. “It’s better than getting involved in an accident and killing themselves or somebody else.”
adminHigh speed chases in Lebanon County lead to dangerous crashes
Jonathan Farris has never been able to make sense of his son’s death.
Paul Farris was 23 when the taxi he and his girlfriend were in was struck by an SUV being chased by a Massachusetts state trooper after a traffic violation.
“If Paul was killed as a result of a violent felony … where a person’s life was put at risk, we could understand that,” Farris said. “But Paul was killed as a result of a guy making an illegal U-turn.”
Now, 11 years later, Jonathan Farris can’t make sense of new billboards warning four-wheeled lawbreakers of the consequences of fleeing Milwaukee police.
“Does anyone actually believe that a few billboards will have ANY impact on Milwaukee’s criminal driving problems?” Farris, founder of Madison-based Pursuit for Change, asked this week in an open letter to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales and the city’s Fire and Police Commission.
The national organization advocates for safer police pursuit policies, more pursuit training for officers and technology that helps reduce the need for pursuits.
“Criminals could care less what is printed on a billboard,” Farris said.
The cost of the billboards is even more perplexing to Farris since Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council approved funding for expanded GPS tracking technology for new police vehicles.
“If you’re going to spend money, put it back into things that help reduce pursuits,” Farris says in the letter.
Morales has said the billboards serve as a reminder of the reckless driving initiative launched by Milwaukee police, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office and the State Patrol earlier this year.
He added that the initiative is bolstered by his department’s pursuit policy, which was revised a year ago to allow officers to chase drivers suspected of nonviolent felonies such as drug possession and reckless driving.
The department had tightened the policy in 2010 after four bystanders were killed by drivers fleeing police. The policy then stated that officers could not chase for misdemeanor offenses, such as drug possession, or nonviolent felonies, such as burglary.
Morales was unavailable for comment Thursday and Friday, but a police spokeswoman said the reckless driving initiative has resulted in about 2,500 traffic-related citations and the seizure of a significant amount of drugs and illegal money.
“Our priority is to keep the streets of Milwaukee safe,” Sgt. Sheronda Grant said, also noting a 21% drop in fatal crashes.
On June 7, Milwaukee Police Officer Charles Irvine Jr., 23, was killed when the squad he was in crashed on the city’s northwest side during a pursuit of a reckless driver. His partner, Officer Matthew Schulze, was driving and was injured in the rollover crash.
The suspected fleeing driver, Ladell Harrison, 29, has been charged with 11 felonies.
Thousands of bystanders killed, injured
Nationally, from 1979 to 2015, more than 5,000 bystanders and passengers — including Paul Farris — were killed and thousands more injured during police pursuits at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, often for minor infractions, according to an analysis by USA TODAY.
Paul Farris was born in Milwaukee, grew up in Minneapolis and earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, in 2006.
He was thelead singerof an indie rock band called theMark, was working as an insurance adjuster and had just completed law school entrance exams.
“He was an outgoing, active, smart, engaged young man,” his father recalled.
“He had a lot of best friends.”
Early on May 27, 2007, Paul Farris and his girlfriend were in Somerville, Massachusetts, in a taxi driven by Walid Chahine, 45.
Shortly before 1:30 a.m., Javier Morales, then 29, fled a trooper attempting to stop him in nearby Everett for a traffic violation in his Mercury Mountaineer.
Morales led the trooper on a high-speed chase through Everett, Medford and finally Somerville, where his SUV slammed into the taxi, fatally injuring Farris and critically injuring his girlfriend and Chahine.
An Open Letter to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales and the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission
From Jonathan Farris Chief Advocate Pursuit For Change
In the summer of 2017 I addressed the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission about their directive forcing then Police Chief Flynn to reinstate dangerous non-violent felony vehicle pursuits.
I asked the Commissioners, “How will you respond when innocent bystanders are injured and killed for chases started under this new policy?” “How will you respond when those innocent citizens bring legal actions because this purposefully weakened policy was the direct cause of the injury or death?” and, “Have you considered other available options including funding additional technology tools proven to reduce the need for more pursuits while still allowing the capture of car thieves, drug dealers and joyriding kids?”
The Commission chose to ignore these serious concerns and instead did what no other city in the US has done. They mandated increasingthe number of allowable pursuits throughout Milwaukee’s densely populated neighborhoods.
Likely as a result of that change, and very tragically, Officer Charles Irvine was killed in a pursuit related crash in June 2018. Officer Irvine was the same age as my son, who was also killed in an unnecessary police pursuit. Could technology or more pursuit driving training have prevented Officer Irvine’s death? Sadly, we will never know.
In June I read that Chief Morales and the MFPC are planning to spend precious and limited police funds for BILLBOARDSadvertising that, “Milwaukee Police chase bad guys.” Really? Does anyone actually believe that a few billboards will have ANY impact on Milwaukee’s criminal driving problems? Criminals could care less what is printed on a billboard. The billboard expense is even more perplexing since the mayor and city council already voted to fund an expansion of GPS tracking technology and the supporting policy stating the system shall be installed on each new police vehicle.
Does anyone find it strange that the Chief and MFPC are leaning so heavily on pursuing fleeing offenders, no matter the reason, rather than strengthening pursuit policies, increasing officer training and using more pursuit-reduction technology the agency has already committed to implementing? I certainly do.
Milwaukee’s 2018 pursuits are up 239 percent, and each of those chases endangers officers and citizens. How can anyone consider that to be a good thing?
Milwaukee is not alone in its pursuit-related problems. I recently spoke with Massachusetts media when an innocent father was killed while returning home from the hospital after visiting his newborn daughter for the very first time. These unnecessary pursuit-related bystander and officer deaths continue to occur across the country every day.
Spending money on billboard advertising is wasteful. It will not help Milwaukee to reduce reckless driving, nor reduce dangerous pursuits, nor save innocent lives. However, allocating additional funds for officer training and acquisition of pursuit reduction tools will help protect officers and bystanders while still dealing with the criminals.
Jonathan Farris Chief Advocate
adminAn Open Letter to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales and the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission
NBC Boston 2018 Police Pursuit Investigative Stories
A note from Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
August 17, 2018
I’m driving across Ohio on Interstate 80 and my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number, so I ignore the call. Several minutes later my phone signals that I have an email. And that’s how this most recent NBC news story came about.
Reporter Ally Donnelly and a team of NBC Boston investigative journalists asked if I could be available for a story they were working on. They also asked to be connected to Kate.
The request came as a result of yet anotherhorrible and unnecessary police pursuit death. This time, a new father was coming home from his first visit with his newborn daughter in the hospital. He was struck by someone fleeing police.
Ally Donnelly, Danielle Waugh and Ken Tompkins were each involved with my interviews. Danielle and Ken drove to Gardiner, Maine to meet with me. Ally met with Kate at the site of Paul’s death. There are also videos about training and technology, the key to saving lives.
Below are the stories and videos.
Victims, Police Want More Training and Funding to Reduce Risk of Police Pursuits
We are constantly seeing examples of police pursuing suspects in vehicles. Many of these pursuits are unavoidable, but there is an inherent risk to the public as vehicles weave through neighborhoods or reach speeds of more than 100 mph on highways. Here’s a look at some notable police chases from around the country.
(Published Friday, Aug. 10, 2018)
The Mashpee crash opened old wounds for families like the Farrises and the Hoyts. Victims of crashes that result from police pursuits, their families, and police themselves say that a lack of training, funding and scrutiny of pursuits is putting everyone at risk.
According to the State Police report of Farris’ crash, Trooper Joseph Kalil spotted a black Mercury SUV make an illegal U-turn on Route 16 in Everett. Kalil flipped on his lights and tried to pull over the driver, but he took off.
Kalil chased, following the SUV into the densely populated residential streets in Medford and Somerville.
The driver, Javier Morales, turned off College Avenue onto Kidder Avenue, where he crashed into the cab carrying Farris and Hoyt at the intersection with Highland Road.
“There should be no reason to have a chase here,” Hoyt said, revisiting the intersection this month with a reporter. “It just blows your mind.”
Jon Farris agrees.
“If I had been told that they were pursuing someone who shot somebody, had raped somebody, truly a violent felon, Paul would still be dead. I would still be heartbroken. But I would understand that,” Farris said. “The fact that a guy made an illegal U-turn and then ran from police, ultimately we found out that he just didn’t have a driver’s license. He was running because he was afraid he was going to go to jail, which he would have. But that made no sense to me. And so Paul’s dead and in my mind, there’s zero reason.”
Mashpee police are continuing to investigate a crash that killed three people last month. Police pursued an erratic driver who failed to stop. He ended up crashing head on into an SUV driven by a new father on his way home from the hospital. That crash has stirred difficult memories for victims and families of other police pursuit crashes. They tel…Read more
(Published Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018)
Fred Leland, a retired Walpole police lieutenant who trains police in pursuit conduct, said cops “live in the gray” of unknowns and potential danger when deciding in the heat of the moment whether to pursue a driver speeding away.
“What if I say, ‘You know what it’s not that serious I’m gonna let him go,’ and then he goes down the street and hits somebody anyway?” he said.
Despite the media spotlight on dramatic pursuits, like one a month ago in Las Vegas where an officer returned fire through his own windshield at a fleeing vehicle he knew held dangerous felons, most attempted stops are more mundane.
According to the Department of Justice, two-thirds of pursuits begin, like the crashes in Somerville and Mashpee, with a traffic violation: speeding, erratic driving or a suspended license.
And for police, the chase itself is often a trial by fire. Leland said local departments do not get enough training, and real-world pursuits are not common for a given officer.
“We don’t have much experience in pursuits,” Leland said. “I know we’re the police and you see them on television and you think, ‘Oh you do them all the time.’ But no, we don’t.”
Officers get 48 hours of driving training when they first join the police academy. Pursuits are part of it, but what happens after that depends on their department.
“Some places do more, some places do less,” said Steve Wojnar, chief of the Dudley Police Department and president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.
He said all departments have written pursuit policies, but like the situations officers face, none are the same. And he agreed that training officers in pursuits should be mandatory.
“You never know exactly what it’s going to be like. You’re going to constantly reassess and re-evaluate the situation,” he said. “How are you going to function under a stressful situation? Are you going to be able to react? Are you going to be able to react properly?
But, as always, the obstacle for cash-strapped departments is paying for it.
“Training is the last thing to be funded and the first thing to be cut when there’s problems and that’s bad,” Leland said.
Bad, too, for a father who lost a son over an illegal U-turn.
“I don’t want other people to have to go through it. I shouldn’t have to be crying every other day when I’m mowing the lawn. It’s horrible,” Farris said.
Farris has been pushing federal legislation that would require departments to track pursuits and would fund more training. He also favors policies that would restrict when officers can pursue to when the officer knows he is chasing a violent felon.
Wojnar hopes training money could also come from the local police training bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed last week.
Training and Technology Can Reduce Police Pursuits, But Funding Is Lacking
Published at 7:44 PM EDT on Aug 10, 2018 | Updated at 11:45 PM EDT on Aug 10, 2018
Some police departments in Massachusetts are re-evaluating their policies or looking for ways to avoid high-speed chases altogether to minimize fatal crashes and severe injuries.
But while many police chiefs agree that training and new devices can help reduce casualties in police pursuits, expensive technological tools and underfunded training budgets inhibit cash-strapped local departments from making changes.
“But we’re not going to chase it at 100 miles per hour, or we’re not going to have people giving themselves a potential for danger just for a person that was stopped for a red light,” Moore said.
Specific training is not required for pursuits like it is for firearms or Tasers. Each department sets its own policy on pursuits where officers and usually supervisors weigh the reason for the initial stop against the risk to the public if they chase. Most pursuits start over a minor traffic violation.
Officer Derek Licata, the Methuen department’s training coordinator, said training is critical because officers in that instant, or any high-stress situation, goes “instantly into fight or flight mode.”
“It can actually sometimes cause you to lose focus of what you’re doing, kind of end up getting tunnel vision and not really focusing on the big picture,” he said.
According to federal data, about one person is killed each day in police pursuits across the country. Between 1982 and 2016, 225 people have been killed during police pursuits in Massachusetts, about a third innocent bystanders.
Three people in Barnstable were killed late last month, including a new father coming home from the hospital.
That chase started after a driver refused to pull over in Mashpee, and the officer gave chase along Route 28. The driver crashed head-on into an SUV carrying the new father, a Marine. The Marine, the driver, and the driver’s girlfriend all died in the crash.
“Nobody wants that to happen. Nobody went out with the intent of that happening,” said Fred Leland, a retired police lieutenant from Walpole who now consults with departments on training.
Leland said local departments need more training in how and when to chase. But in the heat of the moment, when an officer hears of a speeding, erratic driver blowing through stop signs, he knows the officer thinks: “Danger. I think this guy’s putting people in danger.”
Methuen has not had to deploy its tracking device, officers there said. And they intend for the system to obviate the need for high-speed pursuits in the city from now on.
“The days of people just chasing cars, for us, they’re over,” Moore said. “We don’t look forward to that and we’re certainly not trained or encouraged to do it.”
Multiple Massachusetts police chiefs told NBC10 Boston they need more funding to buy technology like StarChase and to train officers.
But they are also calling on lawmakers to dramatically increase the penalty for failing to stop for police. They think making it a felony would greatly reduce the number of people who flee.
Currently, failing to stop for police is a $100 fine.
adminNBC Boston 2018 Police Pursuit Investigative Stories
By Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change.
This Is Not Just Another Day
Every year since my son Paul was killed, on the anniversary of his death, I’ve posted a note. Perhaps on Facebook, at PaulFarris.org, at PursuitForChange.org or some other place for others to read. I suspect I’ll continue this forever.
These stories typically focus on my personal feelings and on the never-ending issue of dangerous non-violent felony police chases.
I can tell you that the anniversary of the death of a child is seared into your brain. It hurts so very much. It tears at your heart and at your soul. It never lets go. But we go on…
Paul was an innocent victim, killed during a police chase after a man running from misdemeanor traffic violation. Because of that I’ve expended years of heartache and energy telling his story to anyone who will listen. Today both Pursuit For Change and Pursuit Response continue efforts by working with law enforcement agencies and legislators. Our goals?
> SAVE LIVES. Innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers
> Reduce the number of misdemeanor and property-crime pursuits
> Develop robust and mandatory Federal tracking for all police pursuit deaths and injuries
> Help law enforcement develop more measured and significantly stricter pursuit policies for their officers
> Share new technologies that will allow for fewer pursuits while still allowing police to catch the bad guys
These goals are simple; making them happen is incredibly difficult. But this effort, too, is part of living our lives in a more meaningful way.
There are deadly #PoliceChase deaths across the world. This is a well done segment by the hosts of The AM Show at Newshub in New Zealand. @NewshubNZ@TheAMShowNZ. Looking for solutions / options and not tossing out blame. #PursuitReductionTech and more driving training WILL help @Pursuit4Change@PursuitResponse
Police not to blame for pursuit deaths – union
Between October 2016 and September last year, seven deaths and 552 crashes were recorded out of around 3600 pursuits.
The Police Association says police aren’t to blame for the deaths of three people in a pursuit that ended in a crash on Sunday.
Around 5:40am, police tried to stop a car in Richmond, south of Nelson. A six-kilometre chase ended in tragedy when the fleeing vehicle crossed the centre line, crashing into a vehicle coming the other way.
“You never overtake on the top of Burke’s Bank because you can’t see what’s on the other side,” Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne told The AM Show on Monday.
Two of the dead were in the fleeing vehicle, the third a member of the public. Police Association president Chris Cahill told The AM Show police can’t be held responsible for the deaths.
“It isn’t the police chasing that’s causing these deaths – it’s the manner of the driving and the people failing to stop. They are the people responsible – not the police officers.”
Det Insp Cahill said the existing rules are “very strict”.
“When a pursuit or fleeing driver incident starts, you immediately have to call through to the communications centre. They take control of the decision-making – you explain the conditions on the road, the speed, the amount of traffic, also that the reason the fleeing driver has taken off in the first place. “The communicator in the comms centre is the decision-maker as to whether that continues or not.
“It takes it away from the police officer in the car who may get tunnel vision, who may have the adrenalin rush going on.”
Police have continually update the comms person on what’s happening. They wouldn’t back a ban on pursuits without “considerable research” first, but doubt it would work.
Det Insp Cahill says Queensland’s restrictive rules on pursuits have resulted in “a lot of young people racing around all over the show, thinking they can get away with it”.
“Do you really think it would be safe just to let people drive on the roads at any speed they want, as drunk as they want, and the police are just going to wave them by? I don’t think the public would let that happen.”
And previous experiments in New Zealand haven’t worked either, he says.
“They started driving the wrong way down the motorway, things like that, ramming into police vehicles, knowing the police would stop. We need to be really careful thinking a ban would be all our answers.”
Det Insp Cahill says penalties need to be increased for drivers who fail to stop.
“If you’re drink driving and you know you’re going to get no further penalty if you fail to stop, what’s the incentive to stop? You need to know if you don’t stop your car is going to be taken… you’re going to face terms of imprisonment.”
Mr Kempthorne says he backs the police, saying the blame lies with those fleeing.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful for any family or friends involved, but we’ve got to be really aware some driver behaviour on the road is really bad.”
Police are currently reviewing their chase policy, which is due to be completed later this year. Police Minister Stuart Nash said he has asked for an update on their progress.
National Party leader Simon Bridges said he’s interested to see the evidence on police chases, and is interested in what other jurisdictions have tried.
“Instinctively, I’m with the police. I don’t think you can have a situation, it would be really bad if they can’t actually make sure that people stop when they’re pursuing them. People should stop,” he told The AM Show.
“If you say police should never do this, what happens then? Does that mean everyone thinks, ‘Well, I’m not stopping. I’m gonna keep on going.'”
The road toll so far this year stands at 77 – nine more than at the same point in 2016, which was a much deadlier year on the roads than 2015.
adminPolice not to blame for pursuit deaths (New Zealand)
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.”
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.
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.
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.