All posts tagged: pursuit policy

Police Pursuit Symposium and WCPO Story

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Hamilton County Police Association (Cincinnati Metro Area) Police Pursuit Symposium / WCPO interview

Jon Farris, Chief Advocate for Pursuit for Change, was a featured presenter at the August 19, 2020 Cincinnati Metro Area Police Pursuit Symposium.

Jon spoke about being a grieving father, a police pursuit victim, an advocate for reducing pursuits, a cheerleader for Pursuit Reduction Technology and a strong supporter of law enforcement. This was an excellent, three-hour symposium with tremendous involvement by over 60 command-level officers from throughout the county. Thanks to Lt. Steve Saunders from the CPD for allowing me to participate.


Additionally, Jon was interviewed by Craig Cheatham, Executive Producer/Chief Investigative Reporter of the WCPO 9 I-Team in Cincinnati. Thanks to Craig for this terrific update.

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Survivor’s family notifies Rockport of intent to sue over fatal high-speed pursuit

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ROCKPORT, Maine — The family of the sole survivor of a crash that claimed two teenagers’ lives following a high-speed police pursuit last December has notified the town of its intent to sue.

The notice of intent to sue was filed this week with the town by Jeri Vitale of Warren on behalf of her 17-year-old daughter Emily Vitale. The younger Vitale was a passenger in the 2001 Subaru Outback driven by 17-year-old Caleb Byras of Litchfield, who led Rockport police Officer Craig Cooley on a high-speed pursuit from Rockport to Wotton’s Mill Road in Union, where the car crashed and split into two large pieces.

Byras and passenger Kara Brewer, 16, of Rockland, died instantly in the Dec. 5 crash. Vitale suffered injuries to an ankle, police said.

Rockport Town Manager Rick Bates confirmed Wednesday that the notice of claim had been filed, but a copy and details were not immediately available.

Vitale is represented by attorney Peter Clifford of Kennebunk, who did not immediately respond to a telephone message left Wednesday afternoon.

Attorney Benjamin Gideon, who represents Brewer’s mother, has previously said he too plans to file a notice of intent to sue, saying that Cooley was negligent by undertaking a high-speed pursuit in violation of the town’s policy and accepted police practices. State law requires a notice be filed within six month of an incident for someone to sue the state, county or municipal government.

Cooley was taken off patrol duty last month and assigned to full-time administrative duties pending the results of an independent review of the police department’s policy by a consulting firm the town hired last month.

In the past 20 years, Cooley has split his time between being the administrative assistant to the chief and a patrol officer with the Rockport Police Department.

Cooley pursued the car driven by Byras after the Litchfield teen failed to stop when the officer tried to pull him over for speeding on Route 17 in Rockport. The chase lasted about four minutes before the crash occurred.

Cooley had issued a ticket to Byras about an hour earlier for driving 74 mph in a 55-mph zone on the same road.

Gideon said Cooley’s pursuit of Byras violated Rockport’s policy on police pursuits, which was adopted in September 2013 and is the same as the model recommended for all police departments in the state by the board of trustees of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

The policy states that only full-time law enforcement officers may participate in a high-speed pursuit. Cooley is not certified as a full-time officer but as a part-time officer, according to John Rogers, director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

The police policy also states that a law enforcement officer “shall not engage in high-speed pursuit if the operator is known” to the officer unless there is “a serious indication of further violent actions if not immediately apprehended.”

Further, the policy states that an officer “shall not pursue vehicles for Class D and E crimes or traffic violations, unless the conditions surrounding the pursuit are conducive to safe operation, management and due regard for the safety of the officer, the public, and the person or persons in the vehicle being pursued.”

Rockport Police Chief Mark Kelley defended Cooley, however, and said Cooley acted appropriately when he pursued the speeding teen driver.

Reposted from by Stephen Betts

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Mother of woman killed in police chase says it’s time to reconsider pursuits

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VELDA CITY • About the time Keisha Redding printed her résumé at a state job assistance center, a police patrolman a mile south noticed a red Chevrolet Monte Carlo with no front license plate. After the driver made two turns without signaling, the officer switched on his lights and siren.

The red sedan with a white hood raced away, covering the distance in the time it took Redding, 23, headed for a job interview, to start walking across Natural Bridge and Lucas and Hunt roads. The crosswalk signal was in her favor, but the circumstances were not.

It was just before 11 a.m. Feb. 26 when the Monte Carlo struck Redding, killing her instantly, and kept going. It was found later, abandoned, in St. Louis. Four days after that, prosecutors filed involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene charges againstMikal Hamilton, 24. It took police about a month more to find him.

Redding’s mother, Njoki Redding, has compassion for Hamilton and his family, recognizing that he did not intend to kill anyone. And she raises the question of whether low-stakes police pursuits make sense.

“He made a terrible mistake, and yes, there needs to be atonement for that mistake, but in that, we need to stop continuing to damage the community,” she said in a recent interview. “Responsibility needs to be taken for things that may have been incorrect as well as looked at in terms of how do we change things.

“Nothing will bring her back, but how can we grow? … If it was a chase, then why are we chasing? For a ticket?”

Police pursuits have been controversial, given the danger to the public, officers and suspects themselves.

They’re also a costly risk to taxpayers. In 2012, a jury awarded$3.1 million to the family of a woman, 34, killed by a speeding suspect fleeing from the now defunct Uplands Park police.

Redding’s death comes at a time when events in Ferguson have put intense attention upon reforming policing in north St. Louis County municipalities. Recent legislation by the St. Louis County Council requires departments to gain accreditation and suggests that they establish pursuit policies. But the measure doesn’t dictate what the policies should say.

National data show that more police officers die from vehicle crashes than gunshots.

History of pursuits

Many large departments, including St. Louis and St. Louis County, have conservative policies that restrict pursuits to cases in which a suspected felon is considered a greater threat to the public than a pursuit.

Velda City’s policy allows chases for misdemeanors as well as felonies. Chief Dan Paulino did not respond to requests for documentation of how traffic infractions fall within that policy.

Paulino has said that he believes his officer followed policy.

“Our policy … also goes into if you identify the person or get a (license) plate (number), go ahead and terminate the pursuit,” Paulino explained. “In this particular case, the officer was trying to get the plate.”

His policy also states that officers should terminate pursuits at the city limits unless the person “is wanted for a dangerous felony.” The intersection where Redding died is about two-tenths of a mile north of the boundary of the city of about 1,600 people.

It was one in a series of high-profile pursuits by the 16-member department in recent years.

St. Louis County police are investigating a pursuit of a suspected speeder traveling with three teenagers in January. It ended with Paulino firing at and striking the driver as he took cover in a house.

In 2011, a Velda City traffic stop for expired license plates in nearby Bel-Ridge ended with Paulino tussling with a female driver. The episode resulted in the firing of a county officer assigned to Jennings, for improperly firing his gun.

Paulino said the in-car camera video of the chase that killed Keisha Redding will “exonerate” his officer, but he said he will not release it because of the pending investigation. He said the patrol car was about six seconds behind Hamilton and slowed for the intersection. The chief said his officer did not realize Redding had been hit and continued the chase.

Witnesses told the Post-Dispatch that the officer also sped through the intersection.

“The video clearly shows that we were pursuing, but the officer was so far back,” Paulino said. “It doesn’t matter because a chase is a chase, and an innocent person lost their life.

“I hate to admit this, but it won’t be last.”

Redding’s mother doesn’t want to accept that.

“What did she leave for us to learn?” Njoki Redding asked. “We need to honor her life and not just wait for this to happen to the next person.”

Philosophies differ

Paulino criticized some other departments, such as St. Louis, for their limited pursuit rules.

“Why do you think that historically and statistically, the vast majority of pursuits that occur in St. Louis County all go toward the city?” Paulino asked. “Why do you think that happens? Because the city won’t chase them, and people know that.”

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said that’s not a bad thing if it prevents someone from being killed in the name of enforcing a traffic law. In January, Dotson sent reminders to area police departments that his officers will not join pursuits unless the circumstances fit the St. Louis policy. He also asks departments to fill out surveys on chases that enter the city.

“It’s my job to keep people in the city safe, and we already know pursuits are one of the most dangerous things police can do,” he said. “If people are chasing in the city for things we wouldn’t chase people for, we have a right to know.”

St. Louis County Deputy Police Chief Kenneth Cox said traffic violator pursuits like the one that killed Redding occur regularly among “several” municipal police departments. “We got away from that 20 years ago as supervisors realized there was a very good chance that it wasn’t going to end well, because most end in accidents,” Cox said.

Paulino said no policy can cover every decision officers must make.

“The bad guys leave, and we go after them and unfortunately bad things happen,” he said. “Everything is dictated by the actions of suspect.”

He added, “The focus needs to be brought to the suspect. All he had to do was stop. He was facing two tickets, if that. And just because there were violations that doesn’t mean (the suspect) was going to get” tickets.

A mother mourns

Meanwhile, at Njoki Redding’s home in University City, pictures on the fireplace mantel show the evolution of her daughter’s short life, including a graduation portrait from University City High School.

At a memorial service March 3, Njoki Redding told mourners, including Keisha’s three sisters, how Keisha was one of her “heart babies.”

“Some babies come from our wombs, and others from our hearts, and at 3 months old, Keisha became one of our heart babies,” the mother explained. She and her late husband adopted Keisha from the now-closed Faith House, where Njoki Redding once worked.

The child followed in her mother’s footsteps and had worked at several child care facilities. She also had a second job at a pizza restaurant.

Some of her co-workers went to her funeral, relating stories of how Keisha Redding gave them hope in small gestures, such as words of encouragement. She also was an organ donor, providing two people the gift of sight, said her godmother, Veronica Banks.

“I can hear my voice and her mother’s voice in these people,” Banks said. “It showed me she was listening even when we thought she wasn’t.”

The night before she was killed, Keisha Redding asked her godmother to email her a copy of her résumé so she could print it at the St. Louis County Workforce Development Center in time for an interview at 1 p.m. that Friday. Banks doesn’t know where the interview was supposed to be. It turned out not to matter.

A purse was among Keisha Redding’s belongings returned to her family by the medical examiner’s office.

The résumé was inside.

Reposted from by Christine Byers


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Why police departments are reconsidering high-speed pursuits

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A veteran Rockport police officer has come under scrutiny after a high-speed chase he led in Union last December ended with a car crash that left two teenagers dead.

See dashboard camera footage of deadly high-speed chase in Rockport

High-speed chases make for great adrenaline-soaked Hollywood action flicks; however, a growing body of research shows that the risks in real life to the officer, suspect and bystanders from pursuits often outweigh the potential benefit of a suspect’s immediate apprehension.

In response to this growing body of research and public concern about safety, a majority of police departments in Maine and nationally have adopted more restrictive policies governing when an officer may engage in a high-speed chase.

The risks

One of the more comprehensive studies of trends in high-speed chases is a 2008 report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a Chicago-based law enforcement advocacy group. Researchers working with the association examined records of 7,737 pursuits between 2001 and 2007 that 56 police agencies submitted to an online database.

The authors found that a quarter of all high-speed chases ended when either the pursuing officer or suspect crashed. Suspects were most at risk for injury, accounting for 65 percent of all chase-related injuries. The next most at-risk group wasn’t police officers but bystanders, who accounted for 21 percent of chase-related injuries.

Agencies reported that 81 percent of chase-related injuries were minor, while 16 percent of injuries were serious. While fatalities occurred in only 3 percent of chase-related crashes, suspects and bystanders were most at risk for dying as a result of a high-speed chase.

Unlike their long-lasting Hollywood counterparts, most high-speed chases end within five minutes after an officer turns on the blue lights. So the pursuing officer has only a small window in which to resolve the chase safely.

Half of all crashes happen within the first two minutes of an officer engaging in a pursuit, and 83 percent happen within five minutes, according to a 1998 report by the National Institutes of Justice. The fatal chase in Union last December lasted about four minutes before the fleeing suspect crashed.

Some 72 percent of high-speed chases end for reasons beyond the control of the pursuing officers, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police report. By and large, the suspect has the most control over the situation, with pursuits ending because the suspect willingly stopped, crashed or successfully eluded the officer. Only 9 percent of pursuits ended because the officer discontinued the chase.

“When police agencies consider the costs and benefits of pursuits, they should also note this high level of uncertainty and lack of control that they often have during pursuit situations, which can certainly increase the ante for choosing to pursue,” the report reads.

Restrictive policies

Given the high risk of injury or death for an officer, suspect or bystander during a chase, a majority of departments nationwide since the 1990s have adopted more restrictive policies to limit pursuits. Half of those policies allow pursuits only for more serious offenses, such as violent felonies, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Maine Criminal Justice Academy’s model pursuit policy that serves as the baseline for Maine police departments, for instance, advises officers to pursue a suspect only when he or she poses an imminent threat to the public or if the suspect has committed a violent crime.

Minor offenses such as traffic violations are a no-go for high-speed chases under most circumstances.

“Under many conditions, abandoning a pursuit may be the most prudent decision a law enforcement officer can make,” the policy reads.

It advises further that an officer abandon a chase once the suspect has been identified and the officer is confident the suspect can safely apprehended later.

Even though policies discourage high-speed pursuits for minor violations, only 9 percent of pursuits reviewed as part of the International Association of Chiefs of Police report involved suspects who committed a violent felony.

Police in 42 percent of pursuits were chasing people suspected of violating a traffic law. In another 18 percent of cases, police chased people suspected of driving stolen cars, and another 15 percent of cases involved people suspected of driving while intoxicated.

Pursuit policies, including the state’s model policy, give officers flexibility to determine whether the risks posed by chasing a suspect outweigh the benefits of apprehension. Because officers can easily get wrapped up in the chase, a supervisor has the authority under Maine’s model policy to call off a pursuit at any time if the conditions become too hazardous.

In some cases, pursuing a suspect for a traffic violation may be the most prudent decision. But once an officer switches on the blue lights and gives chase, what began as a routine traffic stop becomes far more dangerous and unpredictable.

Counterintuitively, suspects concerned about the punishment from running from the police are five times more likely to take extreme risks to evade police, according to a 1998 study in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior, one of the only studies to examine high-speed chases from the suspect’s perspective. Of the suspects surveyed for the study, more than two-thirds who reported they were concerned for their safety during a chase were willing to take extreme risks to evade police. About half of suspects were willing to run at all costs.

“Rather than providing a deterrent effect, thinking about the punishment apparently acted as an incentive to try harder to escape,” the study reads.

In fact, the study suggests the safest way for an officer to end a high-speed chase is slow down and turn off the blue lights. Once the suspect sees the officer isn’t in pursuit, the suspect will resume driving at safe speeds within 2 miles, removing the risk to the public.

After all, a suspect can usually be safely arrested a little further down the road.

Reposted from by Christopher Burns

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Deadly chase prompts questions

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Topeka police must analyze methods

A recent car chase in Topeka that took the life of an innocent woman must be analyzed.

The chase, which was conducted at relatively low speeds, concluded with a horrific crash, which killed a passenger of another vehicle.

What started as an attempt to pull over the driver of a vehicle found to have a faulty taillight prompted an 11-minute chase, mostly through North Topeka, before the driver crossed the Kansas River and eventually caused a three-vehicle crash at S.W. 6th and Topeka Boulevard.

The end result of this pursuit, which began about 5 a.m. Feb. 8, contributed to the death of a passenger in another vehicle. The unintended outcome was devastating.

The charges now faced by Sherman N. Jenkins, including first-degree murder, are appropriate.

The reckless actions that led to the death of Mia Holden are reprehensible.

Holden, 34, was the single mother of five young children. They moved to Topeka from Pennsylvania, according to a GoFundMe account arranged to defray the cost of funeral and travel expenses. According to that account, Holden was en route to an outpatient surgical procedure at the time of the crash. Donations can be made through the GoFundMe account, which also lists other methods to contribute to Holden’s family.

In light of this tragedy, the Topeka Police Department must diligently review the chase and determine if additional measures could have been taken to protect the innocent.

The most important factor prompting any chase is the nature of the crime. In this instance, the tags on the vehicle in question did not come back clean, which made the chase of the stolen truck justifiable.

In addition, two tire deflation devices placed at the south end of the Kansas Avenue bridge, which Jenkins crossed during the chase, failed to stop or slow his path.

Still, what could have been done differently? Could Jenkins have been stopped before traveling into a busier area downtown? These are questions Topeka police are no doubt asking after watching the chase end so disastrously.

The incident also should prompt discussion into the use of drones, which could track drivers who flee police stops and possibly enable law enforcement to curtail chases that endanger lives.

Any discussion to that effect is worthwhile after last week’s senseless tragedy.


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Policy on Victoria Police pursuits must change to that the innocent can be protected

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NEW rules can sometimes create a worse problem than the one they were supposed to fix. When it comes to police pursuits, the Police Association of Victoria believes the policy introduced in July 2015 has massive problems.

We don’t advocate scrapping the rules.

But we are calling for measures to improve the system to swing the pendulum away from the “don’t even think about chasing” end of the spectrum. We want police and the public to be the beneficiaries of the policy, not the criminals.

A recent survey of association members on the pursuit policy drew a remarkable 3000 responses.

More than 93 per cent say it needs to change. Our members reported that offenders are “baiting” police because they know it’s unlikely they will be chased.

Members believe this phenomenon is having a flow on effect, increasing the rate of serious property crimes including car theft and burglary.

Drivers are even skipping away from drug and alcohol testing stations. Perhaps most alarmingly, our members believe the policy has caused a loss of confidence and faith in police.

Police recognise and appreciate the new rules were aimed at improving safety for the police and the public.

But it is time for a reality check.

The Police Association has made 17 recommendations to improve the policy following the survey, and expert analysis of attitudes and lessons learned from other jurisdictions.

The recommendations begin with the policy wording. It has a prohibitive tone and unclear definitions, leading to excessive risk-averse decisions. We need clearer guidelines on circumstances under which police pursuits can be activated, not just when they can’t.

Police need to be free to exercise their skills and training to weigh risks and benefits.

Moreover, the offences for which a pursuit is justified need to be expanded to include all indictable offences, including serious property crime.

Police aircraft should be available around the clock in metropolitan areas to limit high-speed ground pursuits.

We also need to make maximum use of new technologies and communications systems already available in some countries.

Some police suggest working with car manufacturers to develop a system under which a remote signal could be sent to a vehicle to restrict fuel supply or activate the brakes to slow or even stop it.

Victoria could also seek to develop a tagging system where a projectile containing a radio frequency transmitter could be launched at the pursued vehicle, allowing police to find it without a chase. Even better, laser-guided tagging would work in built-up locations and covered car parks.

It has also been suggested that we should consider adopting the “X-net” which wraps around a vehicle’s axle and will stop anything, including trucks, in about 100 metres.

Some of these proposals may sound a little James Bond-ish, but so did self-parking cars only a few years ago. Technology marches on quickly and should be continuously assessed.

Our members have more skin in the game, more frequently than anyone else. If they were only considering their own safety, they would instinctively support a policy where the default position is “No Pursuit”.

But they are dedicated to getting the best result for the community and their capacity to do their job to protect the public. It is therefore appropriate that the pendulum should swing back a few degrees.



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Jon speaks on NPR’s All Things Considered

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Listen to the story HERE.

In Hot Pursuit of Public Safety, Police Consider Fewer Car Chases

Police officers have to make complicated, split-second decisions every day — and whether or not to chase a fleeing suspect is no exception. And they often have to make this decision while driving a car at very high speeds.

Kansas City area police chief Steve Beamer says they don’t make it lightly. “We have to continually balance the need to apprehend that individual who chooses to flee against the safety of the public that may be at risk because of the pursuit,” Beamer says.

The risk is that the pursuit will cause a crash, killing police and innocent bystanders. Based on data from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Kansas Department of Transportation and an analysis of news articles from the last 10 years, there have been at least 706 pursuit crashes that have killed at least 23 people in the Kansas City area in the last 10 years. Hundreds more were injured, including 11 police officers. Police consultant Chuck Drago says nationally between 300 and 400 people are killed each year because of pursuits.

“As far as we can tell, it’s pretty much been stable for many, many, many years, and the numbers are sometimes difficult to pin down,” Drago says. It’s difficult because the reporting is voluntary.

Aaron Ambrose is a former Kansas City area police chief who says most of the time, pursuits just aren’t worth it. But there are exceptions.

“Now, if somebody’s grabbed a little kid and they’re holding them hostage — some guy went into the neighborhood and snatched up a kid and they’re driving around — I say we follow them until the wheels fall off. You’re never going to let that vehicle out of your sight regardless,” Ambrose says.

Technology could help cut down on the number of pursuits. Police already use helicopters and may use drones in the future. There’s also StarChase, a system that shoots a GPS-tracking dart from the front of a police car onto a fleeing vehicle.

Police agencies also have policies in place spelling out who officers are allowed to chase and how fast they can drive. But in Kansas City there are two states, six counties and dozens of municipalities — and all have differing policies. Some allow chases for a minor traffic violations. Others only allow pursuits of violent felons.

Jonathan Farris, former head of the group PursuitSAFETY, says there need to be more consistent policies. Even though he lost his son in a pursuit crash near Boston eight years ago, he thinks banning all pursuits is not realistic.

“I think it’s a reduction in police pursuits, not an elimination of police pursuits, and that reduction, again, the simplest way to do that is to say the only thing that is important enough to put other citizens in danger is to pursue violent felons only,” he says.

Of course, an officer might not yet know who’s running away, and that’s why activists like Farris want policy reform that will make police pursuits both more efficient and safer for everyone in in their paths.

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