Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Apparently I'm Misleading

In a blog post from a few weeks ago (that you can read HERE), I received a comment that laid it on pretty thick. I will post what he/she said, that then respond the best I can. I hope whoever wrote it, reads this.

Mr. Phillips, this article you posted by the Belleville News Democrat is misleading. The unfortunate deaths of these two girls was not the result of a police pursuit. An Illinois State Police Trooper was responding to a motor vehicle crash where there were injuries and people possibly trapped inside their crashed vehicle(s). You have also manipulated the actual story from the paper. I live in the Belleville area and am quite familiar with this tragic event. If you are going to use this article for your cause then please correct it to it's proper content as printed by the Belleville News Democrat. As it is posted on this site now it is wrong and seemingly intentionally misleading to benefit your cause. Now, please don't misinterpret my reply as a negative toward your site. I agree, to an extent, your efforts to maintain smart pursuits but at the same time I also believe if you intentionally manipulated this article you are serving no better of a cause then the reason this site was originally intended. The death of your loved one.

First, I would like to ask how I manipulated the actual story from the paper? I purposely posted only the section of the article concerning me. The reason why is that I don't want to take away from the efforts of Mike Fitzgerald and his newspaper. That is why I linked to the rest of the story, in order to encourage readers to follow it and read the whole story, thus giving credit to the Belleville News Democrat. They would much rather prefer you read their story at their site... Not mine.

Although the incident in question was not a pursuit, Mr. Fitzgerald wanted my opinion as to police vehicular training, an area I am certainly qualified to speak about. I never said a word, in the article, or the blog post in question, about police pursuits.

What Mr. Fitzgerald and I were trying to get to is that police driver training takes a backseat to firearm training, yet instances of vehicular accidents are far more common. Nothing more, nothing less...

I ask Anonymous to please respond and be more specific. Again, at no time did I misrepresent myself, the Belleville News Democrat, Mike Fitzgerald, the incident in question, or the facts of the matter.

Belleville News-Democrat Again

In another article concerning the Illinois State Police, Mike Fitzgerald of the Belleville News-Democrat asks: "Can the Illinois State Police properly investigate itself?"

I had a small quote in his article, but it got the point across:

John Phillips, executive director of PursuitWatch, which promotes safer police driving, said the state police must show whenever possible that their investigation is as transparent as possible.

"They need to be willing to open up when asked," Phillips said. "They need to say, 'Absolutely, here's what we know.'"

You can read the rest of the article HERE

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One they didn't publish

I sent this letter to the News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) concerning a pursuit by the Franklinton PD that killed two young sisters.

Subject: Unnecessary Tragedy

In the wake of Saturday’s police chase that ended in the death of two young sisters, the Franklinton Police Department must develop a progressive, well defined policy that only pursues those suspected of committing a violent crime. Simply stated, the pursuit of someone who was observed driving dangerously should have never occurred. Was the need to apprehend this man so important that it was worth the risk to both the officer and the innocent public? No.

Currently, according to reports, the Franklinton PD allows a pursuit if a felony has occurred. In this case the felony that justified the pursuit was the suspect’s refusal to pull over. If this is their justification, then what is the purpose of having a policy at all? This way they can pursue someone who has a broken taillight or littered.

A policy that only allows a pursuit if one is suspected of a violent crime such as rape or murder properly weights the safety of the public with the need to catch the bad guys. Law enforcement must understand that a smart policy does not hinder their ability to do their job. Technologies such as helicopters, radios, video cameras, GPS, and the everyday computer ensures us that just because the pursuing officer loses sight of the suspects does not mean they will get away.

Often, police forget that their job is not to arrest people but to keep their community safe. Did they do it in this case? No.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Belleville News-Democrat

Here is a story from Sunday's Belleville News Democrat in regards to police driver training.

Firearms training is a big deal for the Illinois State Police.

Which is why state troopers must go to a shooting range every three months to requalify in the use of their handguns.

But the only formal training state troopers receive in the handling of their vehicles, including high-speed pursuits and emergency responses, occurs during their days as Illinois State Police Academy cadets, according to Master Sgt. Brian Ley, a state police spokesman.

Otherwise, their driver's training occurs on their own, during the thousands of miles troopers log each year.

The failure of the state police to ensure more and better driver's education for its troopers is an all-too-familiar story that has resulted in scores of needless deaths each year nationwide, according to John Phillips, executive director of Florida-based PursuitWatch, which promotes safe driving techniques for police.

"The problem here is that in a 25-year career, an officer on average will shoot their gun once," Phillips said. "And in that same time period, 80 percent of their time on the job is spent in their car. Yet when we look at training, it's overwhelmingly in the use of their handgun."

The question of how much training police officers should receive to drive their vehicles safely has been raised following a crash along Interstate 64 near Scott Air Force Base that claimed the lives of two Collinsville sisters -- Jessica Uhl, 18, and Kelli Uhl, 13.

Continued HERE.

This also got picked up in the AP article you can read HERE.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Some thoughts on this Monday morning...

I ran across some interesting thoughts this morning while over at by retired police chief Van Blaricom. I quote:

If, for instance, officers were not held accountable for compliance with deadly force policies, does anyone doubt that we would have many more bad shootings? The fact is that police pursuits seriously injure and kill far more innocent third parties than are ever going to be placed at the risk of a police shooting. Why is that permitted? Officers are strictly prohibited from firing into a crowd, but they are routinely given the latitude to pursue a stolen car through urban streets against traffic control devices until a collision terminates the chase.

This has happened over and over again throughout the United States and will continue to occur until chief policymakers assert effective administrative control over when and how vehicular pursuits are to be conducted. Can there be any question that this is a critical public safety issue demanding attention?

It seems like one of the reasons so many restrictions are placed on the use of firearms is because it is viewed as not necessary to take that steps to catch the bad guy. In other words, shooting into a crowded room isn't worth it because, hell, if you are close enough to shoot him you can bring it to a safer end.

For some reason, when it comes to vehicle pursuits, people seem to think it is over if police do not chase suspects. I'll say it again: Just because the suspect escapes the view of the patrol car does not mean he wins. Technology such as the two way radio, helicopters, video equipment, the ability to run license plates, etc. ensure the chase is not over...

Two Palm Beach Sheriff's Officers die during pursuit of stolen car

Two Palm Beach Sheriff's Officers have died following the pursuit of two men who were suspected of stealing a car.

Early Wednesday morning, police received a call from a resident saying their neighbors car was being broken into. Police responded and noticed the stolen car traveling down Route 715. After refusing to stop, a sergeant authorized the pursuit.

Two deputies, Donta Manuel and Johnathan Wallace placed stop sticks in the direction of the chase and were successful. However, when the two officers were removing the stop sticks shortly after, they were struck and killed by one of the sheriff's pursuing vehicles.

More to come as this tragedy unfolds.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Update: 3:30 PM 11/28/07

One of the suspects is in custody. Police are still searching for a second.

Officer Manual

Officer Wallace

Still Developing...

Source: Palm Beach Post

Update: 11:30 AM 12/03/07

Details are starting to surface concerning last weeks accident in Palm Beach county. The following comes from a South Florida Sun Sentinel Article. You can read it in full HERE.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputies Donta Manuel and Jonathan Wallace threw tire-deflation devices into the path of a fleeing stolen car but left a key component in the trunk, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said Thursday.

If the retrieval lanyards had been attached to the Stop Sticks, Bradshaw said, the deputies simply could have yanked the devices off State Road 715 south of Pahokee. Instead, they darted onto the highway to get them early Wednesday and were hit and killed by another deputy's cruiser.

"That decision turned out to be a fatal mistake," Bradshaw said after outlining his agency's policies on the use of Stop Sticks and police pursuits.

Police are still searching for the passenger in the fleeing vehicle.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

**For those who watched Fox News this evening**

First, I would like to thank you for visiting the site. Please leave your thoughts under this blog post or send me an email at It is through thoughtful discourse that we can truly find a solution. Many Thanks.

You can view a video of the story HERE.

You can also read an article concerning StarChase with quotes from Dr. Geoff Alpert HERE.

Please continue to use the valuable resources available here at

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mmmmm... Research

Post #1: The Beginning

Orange County, FL has one of the strongest and most progressive vehicle pursuit policies in the nation. A vital part of a good policy is the ability to review incidents. Whenever someone fails to pull over when asked, deputies are required to fill out a Vehicle Apprehension (V.A.) Form. This form includes, among other things, location, time, and results of the attempt to pull over the suspect. has begun a informative study of the V.A. forms. They can tell us a lot about the state of police pursuits in a county with a large population and a progressive pursuit policy.

This blog post will be continually updated throughout the research process with:

- Methods of study
- Results of study
- Opinions of the research process
- And anything else I can think of

...Keep checking back.

Post #2: Problems

The Orange County Sheriff's Office has been wonderful in providing me the tools to do this research. There are, however, limitations to my access to the V.A. forms.

  • There are literally thousands of these forms.
  • Before June of 2006, V.A. forms were not kept in a central location. They were housed throughout the county in various offices. However, in June of last year, the decision was made that all V.A. forms should be kept together, so all of the forms dating back to 2003, were brought to headquarters. It would take endless hours to sort these forms out. So, the only way to gage proper sample size would be to draw from the forms, starting with July of 2006 to June of 2007, the time period after the forms begun to be organized. Of these files, they are separated by month.
  • There is sensitive information on the forms that I cannot view. For example, if the suspect that failed to stop is a juvenile, I cannot view any of the information. Also, things like names and social security numbers of the suspects are personal data that must be blacked out. Because of this I cannot myself sort through these forms. I can only view them once they have been reviewed. Will this spoil the results. No. I am taking every necessary step to ensure an accurate sample size. I will talk more about that as the process continues.
Next, I will be talking about the sample size that I have decided to go with, and why. Again, this study will be done correctly to ensure that the findings can be stated with confidence.

...More to come.

Post #3: Maps

An essential part of the research we are tackling here deals with the location of the incidents. We would like to be able to, for example, say that a "majority" or "1/3" of these incidents occurred in this part of the county. This, however, brings up a few questions. Since it is a quantitative study of the Vehicle Apprehension Forms, a way of coding must be established. Here are a few of the ideas that are being discussed.

We can divide the county up as the OCSO does, by sectors. Below is their county map divided by sectors.
A simple glance at the map brings up a glaring problem. How can this map be used to provide accurate numbers? For example, what if our study finds that there were four times as many incidents in zone 2 then there was in zone 6? Does that mean anything? Well, first, zone 2 is much, much larger than zone 6. But, at the same time, zone 6 might have a larger population, more roads, or more traffic.

Another way of approaching the geography issue is by dividing the county up in to areas with the same amount of square miles. This also has a few drawbacks. What if one sector has almost no roads, or traffic, thus no incidents?

So the question remains, can we accurately view the results using this method? The solution might involve using both methods. Also, as is the case with any research, the methods must be accurately explained so that, as a college professor of mine would always say, "you don't become dangerous."

Another method that will be done is simply dotting the point of the incident on a map of the county. That way one can understand that makeup of the counties incidents. This, however, is not quantitative.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pursuit in Orlando:

Police pursued what they thought was a suspect in a shooting and robbery last night, finding out when the pursuit ended they were chasing the wrong man. The fleeing man was arrested on drug charges, driving with a suspended license, and felony fleeing. Police were given the description of the vehicle involved in the robbery, which matched the description of the vehicle the fled. The chase occurred around the MetroWest area of Orlando. Police are still looking for the suspect in the armed robbery.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Three County Pursuit In Central Florida

Last night, a three county pursuit in Central Florida ended when stop sticks deflated the fleeing vehicles tires, forcing him to surrender. Two men apparently robbed a fast-food restaurant at gun point, which led to the pursuit. Orlando Police initiated the pursuit. According to their policy, the pursuit was justified. HERE is a link (with video) to the Orlando Sentinel story.

Below are the violent forcible felonies that warrant pursuits by the Orlando Police Department:

1. Murder.

2. Manslaughter.

3. Armed robbery.

4. Armed sexual battery.

5. Arson to a structure reasonably believed to be occupied.

6. Use of explosive devices to a structure reasonably believed to be occupied.

7. Kidnapping

8. Armed carjacking.

9. Burglary armed with a firearm.

10. Aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon (firearm, edged weapon). Does not include a motor vehicle.

11. Aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer resulting in serious injury.

Police are still searching for a second suspect in connection with the robbery.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Independence, Mo.: Two pursuits, two deaths...

Two pursuits in less than 24 hours have resulted in two deaths, one of those a 17 year-old on his bike. Christopher Cooper (above) was crossing the street when the car being chased by police stuck him. The driver is cousin to St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols. More information in the two stories below.

KMBC- Kansas City

You don't need me to tell you that this is madness. It's obvious. More to come following the holiday.

Friday, November 9, 2007 Redesign

It's a work in progress, but there have been a number of changes to's website. Most notable is the logo and color scheme change. Actually, the logo will change again soon. As for the colors, they are now streamlined with the blog, and look pretty spiffy if you ask me. Also, things have been simplified. The navigation bar on the left is more straightforward. Next, many of the articles linked on the main page have been sent to the archives, which now has more content then ever. Finally, we have a lead in page with my message to law enforcement officers visiting the site.

Again, it is still a work in progress. If you have any comments about the redesign, or anything else for that matter, please CONTACT me.

Also, I would like to thank Tina Holmes, Ben Bruner, and David Pope for their assistance. You can visit Ben's web design site HERE.

Side Note: Research on the Orange County Sheriff Office Vehicle Apprehension Forms is underway. I am taking my time on this and making sure I am taking all necessary steps to ensure validity. More on this after the holiday.

Letter to the Indy Star

I sent the following letter to the Indianapolis Star in response to an incident in which a pedestrian was stuck and killed by a police officer responding to a police pursuit. You can read the Indy Star article HERE.

Here is the letter to the editor in its entirety:

I found Indianapolis police Sgt. Matthew Mount’s comment in the Nov. 4th article about the death of a pedestrian by a police officer responding to a high speed pursuit alarming. He explained, “Frankly, somebody jumping out in front of a police vehicle—with lights and sirens activated, operating within the parameters of what he’s supposed to be doing—is something you can’t control.” Sgt. Mount is wrong. The fact is the pursuit in which the officer was responding to should have never taken place. Police should not pursue suspects unless they are believed to be involved in a violent felony. Running a red light, as was the offense in this case, is not worth the risk of pursuing to both the police officers and the innocent public.

Sure, this also wouldn’t have happened if the suspect would have stopped when asked, but should law enforcement compound a bad decision by making bad decisions of their own? Police get in trouble when they lose control of the situation, and at no time in the career of a law enforcement officer are they less in control of events then during a police pursuit.

According to the Star, the IMPD can pursue for ANY reason. This is astonishing. Law enforcement must understand that a smart policy does not hinder their ability to do their job. Technologies such as helicopters, radios, video cameras, GPS, and the everyday computer ensures us that just because the pursuing officer loses sight of the suspects does not mean they will get away.

Often, police forget that their job is not to arrest people but to keep their community safe. Did they do it in this case? No.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Some Random News

First, I interviewed for the BBC this last week. I was very pleased with the questions and professionalism of the entire situation. More to come...

Next week, PursuitWatch will announce some details of an extensive study that is in the works concerning pursuit/vehicle apprehension statistics. This has been in the planning stages for some time, and is partially to blame for the several postless days on this blog. PursuitWatch hopes to bring some validity to the pursuit debate.

Check in next week for details.

Also, we are working on a site redesign. Its been several years since any layout work has been done. Look for the changes to be integrated throughout the month. Thus, if you run into any busted links or other such errors, we would love to hear about them.

All in all, it is as busy as ever around here. Many thanks to all of PursuitWatch's supporters.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Update: Motorcycylist Sought in Beltway Disaster...

In late May, I appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. The inquiry stemmed from an accident in the Washington D.C. area where 2 were killed and 15 injured.

According to reports, a motorcycle was traveling upwards of 120 mph when Officer Scott Campbell began to pursue. Only moments later, during rush hour traffic, the police cruiser collided with a SUV, setting off a chain-reaction that killed two and injured 15. According to accounts of more than 20 witnesses, the police interview, a videotape of the chase, and other evidence, Officer Campbell could be fired and even face criminal prosecution. Sources say Campbell initiated the pursuit without radioing to dispatchers, which is required by policy. He has been placed on administrative leave with pay.

The Prince George's police department pursuit policy only allows pursuits if there is probable cause to believe that the suspect was involved in the use or threat of physical force or was involved in a hit-and-run accident that resulted in death or serious injury. "The policy says that an officer's primary concern should be the prevention of life, not capturing or identifying a suspect."

Until recently, the driver of the motorcycle remained unknown. However, his passenger recently came forward and identified the driver. Police are investigating. Although his identity might be known, the driver is still at large.


Transcript of MSNBC interview: HERE

Albany Times Union Letter

A letter to the editor I wrote was published in the Albany Times Union Saturday. You can follow the link HERE. Below is as it appeared:

The Albany Police Department must modernize its vehicle pursuit policy. Recently, the department apparently "strengthened" the policy by requiring officers to be vocal over the radio during pursuits in regard to the crimes committed and the situation unfolding. This change was in response to two recent vehicle pursuits that led to an innocent bystander being killed killed and another injured.

Unfortunately, officers can still pursue any violator, no matter how insignificant the violation might be. This is the wrong approach to safe police work.

Many police officers forget that their job is not to arrest people but to keep their community safe. A safer policy would allow police to pursue violators who have committed serious crimes.

No matter the training or the experience, police are not in control of the situation during a pursuit and at least 400 Americans are killed a year as a result. Just because the violator gets out of sight of the pursuing officer does not mean the bad guy got away. Technological advances such as helicopters, video cameras and computers ensure that a strict policy does not hinder law enforcement's ability to do its job.

To prevent the death of more innocent victims and law enforcement officers, Albany must adopt a policy that only pursues vehicles when it is absolutely necessary. Make the change before it is too late.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Report on 10/21 Orange County Pursuit

As mentioned on a previous blog entry, the Orange County Sheriffs Office was involved in a pursuit last week in which shots were fired at a deputy. I obtained a copy of the Incident Report. Here is the story as reported by the OCSO:

First, the robbery that led to the pursuit occurred in Osceola County. Thus, I do not have detailed information until OC deputies became involved.

Officers responded to help assist Osceola deputies. Orange County deputies, knowing the direction of the pursuit, positioned themselves as necessary. Deputy Grant Meade pulled his vehicle into the southwest corner of the intersection of Americana Blvd. and Rio Grande Ave., exited his vehicle and pulled out his stop sticks.

He observed the pursuit approaching his vehicle and was about to deploy his stop sticks when he saw a flash and the sound of a bullet "wizzing" by. He then heard what appeared to be a second gunshot. The suspects vehicle then turned east onto Americana, lost control and struck the middle curb. The vehicle then wrecked at the intersection of Orange Blossom Trail and Americana Blvd. One of the suspects surrendered, while the other two escaped on foot. They were chased down and taken into custody.

All three defendants were charged with armed robbery and face other charges. Two face charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Some "Statistics"

This morning I received some statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in regards to pursuit fatalities.

You can view the report HERE.

These are the from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) statistics that are often refered to. Again, as I have stressed before, the validity is questionable. Note the following:

  • FARS relies on self reporting by law enforcement
  • A report might be filed the day following a pursuit reporting no fatalities, yet a victim might die several days later.
  • Events might not be classified as pursuits by accident or by design.
Brief... Brief summary:

The report includes FARS statistics from 1982 to 2006 and includes a breakdown by state. In 2006, FARS reported 404 police pursuit fatalities. In 2005, 359. In 2006, California led the way with 50 pursuit fatalities, followed by Texas (39), Arizona (28), Florida (22), and Pennsylvania (20). Also, in 2006, of the 404 deaths 3 were police officers, 268 were those who were being chased, 122 were victims in another car, and 11 were pedestrians.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Heads up: 700 WLW Cincinnati Today at 1pm

I'll be on Cincinnati's 700 WLW and XM Channel 173 today at 1 p.m. in regards to an incident involving a Lockland Police Officer. More information about the accident is HERE.

You can listen online HERE.

As for the events in Orange County I mentioned yesterday... No news as of this morning, but I'm working on it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Interesting Week In Central Florida

First, according to the Orlando Sentinel, three suspects who robbed a local restaurant were involved in a pursuit with Orange County deputies. An officer who was attempting to end the pursuit was shot at by the suspects.

Read the Sentinel article HERE.

Now, on to the... How should I say it... Uncertain events of last week.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that according to witnesses, a vehicle that ran a red light and struck another car and a 11 year-old student waiting to cross the street was being pursued by police.

The cruiser's police lights were flashing, although witnesses heard no sirens. According to one woman, the patrol car appeared to be traveling faster than the speed limit as it trailed the speeding Toyota.

"It looked like it was a chase to me," said Celine Gasco, 33, who was stopped in her car at the intersection when the crash took place.

Police spokeswoman Barbara Jones said the traffic investigation is ongoing and that there is no indication a chase took place. Investigators initially said the crash occurred when Thomas Duane Granados, 29, the driver of the Toyota, ran a red light. They did not mention a pursuit.

Read the Sentinel article HERE.

I'll be digging down to see what I can find out...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Introducing: Voices Insisting on Pursuit Safety

Candy Priano, president of, and mother of an innocent victim, has started Voices Insisting on PursuitSafety (or VIPS). It got off the ground in June and the goal is simple:

PursuitSAFETY's goal is to improve officer training, supervision and the law with respect to police pursuits so as to prevent innocent bystanders from being needlessly killed or maimed.

It's members and advisory board (in which I am on) consists of concerned citizens from throughout the nation. I encourage you to check out the website HERE. The group will sponsor legislation that promotes safe and smart pursuits, educate the media and the community, and speak with law enforcement as to the importance of a smart policy.

HERE is an article featuring the organization in the Chico Enterprise Record.

We have a lot of work to do. Everyday needless pursuits aren't called off.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Scott v. Harris

On April 30 of this year, the Supreme Court released their decision in Scott v. Harris. The plaintiff filed suit against Deputy Scott, claiming the use of excessive force and violating the unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Scott fled from police leading to a chase that lasted more than 10 miles, which ended when Deputy Scott stuck Scott's car. Scott lost control and crashed, rendering him a quadriplegic. The Court ruled as follows:

The car chase that respondent initiated in this case posed a substantial and immediate risk of serious physical injury to others; no reasonable jury could conclude other-wise. Scott’s attempt to terminate the chase by forcing respondent off the road was reasonable, and Scott is entitled to summary judgment. The Court of Appeals’ decision to the contrary is reversed.

You can read the ruling of the Court HERE.

Summary judgment prevents a full trial. In other words, Scott's claim is without merit. Below is a video of the event that lead to the suit. The crash occurs after the 14:16 mark on the top right.

This is not breaking news by any means, but it is important. As always, I have my opinions. But what do you think?

Send your thoughts to

Tomorrow I will weigh in...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Letter to the Topeka Capital-Journal

I wrote the following letter to the editor for the Topeka Capital-Journal in response to the article linked HERE.

I am writing in response to the Oct. 14 article (Police chases driven by rules) regarding the pursuit policy of the Topeka Police Department. Police Chief Miller says that his department will chase and apprehend those who flee, but at the same time try to do this as safely as possible. Chief Miller must understand that in order to do this, pursuits must only be justified in cases of violent crimes, not simple traffic violations or other minor crimes. The risk to the public and officers involved do not justify the need to chase these violators. After all, technological advances such as the helicopters mentioned in the article, provide law enforcement other options that insures the public that just because the fleeing vehicle runs out of the sight of the officer in chase does not mean the suspect got away.

A departments policy should be strictly defined in order to prevent knee jerk reactions by officers, although perhaps properly trained, make mistakes.

Police Capt. Ron Brown asked, "if we do terminate the pursuit, are we allowing the person driving his car at 80 to 90 mph to continue, putting the public at greater risk?" I would ask Capt. Brown the following question: Which has a greater chance to end in tragedy: One car driving recklessly at 90 mph, or that same dangerous driver followed by 5 police cars driving just as recklessly? You can do the math.

After all, the job of a police officer is not to arrest people, but protect its citizens. Unfortunately this is often forgotten, and innocent lives such as my sister Sarah's, are lost.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Just how many fatalities are there?

To clear some air:

Probably the most common question I get asked by the media or readers is just how many fatalities a year are there? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. The method in which statistics are compiled is extremely flawed. I wrote an article concerning the number several months back which cited a previous article. They are both linked below:

How many victims are there?

Police Pursuits- A national epidemic

When members of the media ask, I tell them the safe number to go with is 400, but I know it is higher. Thus, I like to refer to it as 400*.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Some OnStar science... And some reality.

I've been getting some questions as to how this new OnStar "Stolen Vehicle Slowdown" technology works. Now I'll be the first to point out that I am no scientist. So to do some of the explaining for me, check out this article from ars technica. They know technology, and talk about satellites, quantum physics, and all that gobbledygook.

The process for Stolen Vehicle Slowdown would go something like this. A customer calls OnStar to report that his vehicle has been stolen, which would prompt OnStar to locate the car via GPS. OnStar would then provide the car's information and location to law enforcement in the area. The police, when they are able to establish a clear line of sight on the stolen vehicle, can then call into OnStar and request that the car be slowed down remotely. OnStar would then send a signal to the car that would instruct it to reduce engine power, thus slowing the car to an eventual stop.

Although OnStar does provide some potential options for law enforcement, it does not change the mission of Departments should still submit their officers to the necessary vehicle training, have in place a safe pursuit policy, and provide the proper oversight. Although this could be the beginning of widespread similar technology, right now it is just a drop in the bucket. A vast, vast, vast majority of cars on the road will not have this technology.

"Rose, I'm so sorry. I didn't know it was you. I was drunk."

The following happened last week in Taylorsville, Utah:

Sgt. Rosie Rivera of the Taylorsville PD was at an intersection when a vehicle ran a red light and nearly caused a collision. Rivera attempted to pull over the vehicle but the suspect fled. A pursuit began but was called off immediately by the other sergeant on duty. Currently, the department only pursues motorists suspected of a felony.

The rest is quoted from the Desert Morning News:

Just as Rivera turned off her red and blue lights, the other vehicle that was almost hit sped past her and went after the first vehicle. The next thing Rivera knew, both cars had turned around and were headed right back at her.

"I threw it in reverse because the suspect was trying to hit me," she said.

Rivera, who was involved in high-speed chases when she was a member of the Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit, drove for about a block in reverse before she was able to flip the car around. The other two vehicles sped past her down a street that led to a circle on a residential street. There, the first vehicle rammed the pursuing vehicle's car twice, Rivera said. That aggravated assault, a felony crime, was enough to get police involved in the chase again.

When asked later what he was doing, the driver of the second car told police he was trying to help officers. Rivera said citizens should never get involved in a police pursuit.

As the motorist flipped his car around in the circle, Rivera said, he went after her car again, forcing her to once again drive in reverse and making other maneuvers to avoid him.

"Everywhere I turn, he turns. I'm pursuing this guy but he's the one following me," she said. "I thought, 'This guy must be really dangerous if he is trying to hit a police officer with lights and sirens.' I didn't know if he was armed, wanted or intoxicated. I knew we had to get this guy off the street."

As backup officers arrived, the driver twice tried to hit other officers. In one incident, he clipped the hand of an officer who was outside his car trying to lay tire spikes on the road, Rivera said.

Finally, two patrol cars were able to ram the man's vehicle, bringing him to a stop. The man got out of his car screaming "Shoot me," Rivera said. Instead, officers used a Taser and were able to arrest him.

But there were still more surprises in store as the driver then recognized Rivera.

"He said, 'Rosie, I'm so sorry. I didn't know it was you. I was drunk,"' she said.

Rivera had mentored the man many years ago in junior high school before he got in trouble with the law and eventually was sent to prison.

The car the man was driving is believed stolen. He was arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of numerous charges including four counts of aggravated assault against a police officer, two counts of aggravated assault against citizens, DUI, fleeing and possession of a stolen vehicle.

USA Today, the Early Show, and Good Morning America

OnStar unveiled a method to potentially stop stolen vehicles fleeing from the police today. Read the article in todays USA Today featuring

Also, if you can, catch my comments on CBS' Early Show and Candy Priano on Good Morning America.

More reaction to come throughout the day...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Trrraining Sir!

In my previous post, I said I would do some research as to the amount of training spent on pursuits in comparison to firearms. I found what I expected.

Osceola County Sheriff's Department vehicle training is summarized as follows:

New hires receive 1 hour classroom training on policy, operations, and pursuits.

Each year consists of 8 hours of mostly hands on vehicle operation training.

Every two years, officers go through a 10 hour scenario based pursuit management training program.

As for firearm training: The department is "mandated by FDLE to state qualify 1 time a year." This includes bi-monthly training as well as "advanced handgun, shotgun and patrol rifle classes two times a year."

According to my source at the department, statistics show that in 25 years of service an officer will fire their weapon ONCE. Yet, 80% of that 25 year career is spent behind the wheel of a car... Not with a gun. Officers face the greatest harm behind the steering wheel, a fact that has been lost.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

St. Petersburg to review policy

According to Fox13 in Tampa, officers of the St. Petersburg PD want their pursuit policy reviewed. Not just when to pursue, but how to end a justified pursuit. Read the entire story HERE.

This comes in result of the death of an innocent bystander last week. I wrote about the incident in a previous blog.

One part of the article caught my eye:

"We don't use (the PIT maneuver) in our department, we don't teach it."

The safety and the effectiveness of the PIT maneuver can be debated. That is not what I am focusing on here. This shows that a safer pursuit policy is much, much more than what is on paper. Departments must be willing to put in the man hours to correctly train their officers so when the case arises where a pursuit is necessary they can bring it to a safe and quick end. Does anyone know the training hours an officer does in regards to the use of his firearm in comparison to police pursuits? It's time to do a bit of research...

Monday, October 1, 2007

22-Year-Old Killed in Tampa

Early last Wednesday 22-year-old Steven Cornell was killed when the vehicle he was riding in was struck by man who was fleeing from police by driving the wrong direction on I-275. This tragedy is even more shocking when considering the suspects past and the events that led to the death of Steven. Read the Tampa Tribune article HERE.

It turns out this was not the first time Charles Hicks had run from police. In fact, this is not the first time he had driven the wrong way on Interstate 275.

Here starts the list:

  • In 1999 he was convicted of fleeing and eluding after driving on the wrong side of the road towards a police vehicle.
  • In May, 2001, he was again charged with fleeing and eluding after speeding and running several stop signs.
  • August, 2001: A suspect in a second-degree murder, Hicks once again ran from police, this time up the exit ramp of I-275. A jury acquitted him of second-degree murder but served 5 years for a series of other crimes.
  • And, of course, we have the events of last week. I'll quote the Tampa Tribune:

Early Sunday, the Ford Escort he later crashed made a U-turn and drove directly at a police officer after the officer had tried to pull the car over, Proffitt said. The officer swerved to avoid the car, then chased it - only to pull off once the Escort started driving into oncoming traffic along 34th Street, Proffitt said.

Then on Wednesday, at about 2:06 a.m., the Escort raced toward an officer's squad car on 18th Avenue South, Proffitt said. The officer, Kevin Sullivan, swerved to avoid being hit and radioed in a description of the car.

Within a minute or two, Sullivan and a second officer, Brian Burton, spotted the Escort stopped in traffic lanes with its lights off on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. The officers turned on their lights and sirens to pull the Escort over, but it sped off into a neighborhood and they decided not to chase it, Proffitt said.

A short time later, Burton saw the Escort emerge from a side street and start coming toward his squad car, switching into the officer's lane in what appeared to be a deliberate drive toward a head-on collision, Proffitt said.

Burton swerved and braced himself for the impact but the Escort swerved at the last minute, narrowly missing the cruiser, Proffitt said.

The officer made a U-turn and started chasing the car, remaining in pursuit until it drove toward Interstate 275. There, the Escort went up the exit ramp and barreled north on I-275 in the southbound lanes, Proffitt said.

Burton immediately pulled off because continuing the chase would have been a violation of a department policy that prohibits pursuit while driving the wrong way, Proffitt said. The officer made a U-turn and entered I-275 on the northbound lanes hoping to keep track of the Escort, Proffitt said. Burton and other officers soon came upon the crash, near the 31st Street overpass. They found the Camry driven by Mary Cornell hanging off the edge, Proffitt said.

From the article, and I don't want to draw conclusions without all the facts, it appears that L.E. did their job correctly. It seems like our legal system let us down here...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Email I Received

Below are a few excerpts from an email I received from a law enforcement officer:

Once a pursuit starts neither the suspect or the officer has much control over the outcome. Which is the most compelling reason why the use of police pursuits must be very limited. All pursuits are extremely dangerous. We have had a few instances over the years where officers attempted to stop a car and the driver fled and even though the officers chose not to pursue the suspect vehicle was still involved in an accident injuring an innocent party.

My agency has a very restrictive policy regarding police pursuits and while we debate provisions of the policy frequently with an eye toward improving the policy the majority of our officers do not disagree with the basic premise of the policy which strictly limits pursuits to those incidents involving a violent incident.

The officer makes a very important point. Mistakes happen when L.E. is not in control of the situation. By definition and by nature, police pursuits cannot be controlled to the point where safety can be assured. To continue:

I have been a police supervisor for twenty-five years (officer for 29 years) and currently I supervise a training squad. One of the points that I and the Field Training Officers emphasize about driving, whether it be pursuit, police, or personal, is how little control the driver really has over events external to their vehicle. We do this to encourage Officers in Training to recognize the dangers involved in driving and to learn to exert the maximum amount of control in those areas where they have the most impact.

I had the opportunity to review more of your site and I do agree that it is not a police bashing site. Your arguments are well formed.

I thank the officer for his email and support.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Houston PD: Out of Control

In an story, it is reported that the Houston Police Department has been involved in 661 pursuits this year, which ended in 216 collisions. You can read the story HERE.

As of today, HPD can pursue at will. The policy is currently "under review." It has been "under review" for a year and a half... A year and a half? Let's do some math.

In 8+ months there have been 661 pursuits.

That is over 82 pursuits a month.

Carry the 2... That is at least ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTY SIX pursuits since the review committee began looking at the policy.

The husband of an innocent victim who is suing the HPD said it best: "They should have done something a long time ago... That's why I am doing what I am doing. I want them to do something now. I don't want anyone else to go through what I've gone through."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Car Chase Stopper: A Response

I notified Car Chase Stopper that I had critiqued their product in a previous blog and they wished to write a response. If you have not read my original post from yesterday, either scroll down or click HERE. I will post their response in color below.

First, thank you for reviewing our site and for sharing your impressions. We appreciate this great opportunity to get our ideas out in a public forum. has been a great source of information and inspiration for us and we have the utmost respect for the work you are doing.

We at JCCS Inc do not consider the Car Chase StopperTM to be a panacea that will forever solve all the problems of police pursuits. We do, however, feel it is a far, far better alternative than existing methods still being used today that too often result in carnage and destruction from those pursuits that go horribly wrong.

Foremost among these methods is the PIT Maneuver, the tool still being used by most law enforcement agencies and still being taught to new officers. As you know too well it is inherently dangerous and is the leading cause of deaths, injuries, property damage and law suits from police pursuits. The PIT Maneuver (Precision Immobilization Technique), is described as a technique by which one car pursuing another can force the pursued vehicle to abruptly turn sideways to the direction of travel, causing the driver to lose control and stop.

This loss of control is what is most responsible for the serious accidents involved in police pursuits.

Alternately, the use of various kinds of spike strips to deflate the tires of a suspect vehicle is only effective when the spike strips can be deployed in front of that vehicle’s tires – not all that often possible. And even when successfully used there is still a risk of an out of control vehicle crashing into whatever is in the way.

Today many police organizations are rightfully backing away from dangerous pursuits because of the risks involved. However there are still times for whatever reason the police feel they must attempt to apprehend a fleeing suspect. As long as this remains the case we strongly believe Car Chase Stopper will be a much safer alternative.

As for the safety and effectiveness of the Car Chase Stopper, we need to point out:

· our video is of the first test of a prototype

· this first test proved the concept works; the device is not yet perfected

· we are seeking partners capable of helping us move forward from here

· our plan is for repeated video-documented professional testing of improved designs

· successful testing will lead to field tests, and from there…

Now, let me address what you saw and commented on. You are certainly correct in saying that the video does not prove it safe. It isn’t designed to.

First, it requires the police to be VERY close to the vehicle it is pursuing. Of course, this is very dangerous.”

For the prototype test shown both vehicles were at 40 mph. The “capture cable” had an effective range of around 20 feet between the vehicles. The cable used was stainless steel. One new design potential is for a brand new much lighter and far stronger fiber cable that could appreciably extend the effective distance between the vehicles. This cable is now being tested in the form of a net to capture missiles and to entangle large marine vessel propellers.

As for the degree of danger involved, is it more or less dangerous to set loose an out-of-control suspect vehicle that no one knows where and how it will end up than to “lasso” that vehicle and control where and how it ends up?

“If you will notice, once the fleeing car is caught by the device it fishtails to the right... Hmm.”

Again you are correct. The suspect vehicle appeared to fishtail to the right because the cable engaged only the right rear wheel and axle and not the left. Additionally the steel cable, as it wrapped around the axle, caused the right side emergency brake to engage thus causing the rear of the vehicle to swerve to the left – giving the appearance of the front fishtailing to the right. With both wheels and axles snared all action would be forward until the stop. In most cases the police vehicle is easily able to be directly behind the suspect vehicle.

And did you notice how quickly the chase was over, and that the police vehicle did not come close to the pursued vehicle?

A couple of the reasons Car Chase stopper will be more effective and less dangerous than today’s alternatives:

· Car Chase Stopper captures and stops the fleeing vehicle – far less danger of going out of control

· no need to be in front of a fleeing vehicle to deploy spike strips

We readily acknowledge Car Chase Stopper isn’t finished yet. Our hope is by publishing our web site now we can get the word out and attract the help we need to get the necessary work done. All who have an interest can follow the progress as we move forward. We’re hoping all will reserve final judgment and follow our journey with us.

It is important to note that this type of discussion is what will solve the problem of police pursuits. Rather it be with a new technology or safer policies, a true discourse without the mudslinging that tends to go along with this subject is truly what the doctor ordered.

Just what is the job of a police officer?

It's an intriguing question: What is the job of a police officer? Some might say, "It's their job to arrest the bad guys!" You're right, but WHY arrest the bad guys? What is the goal in arresting the bad guys? Police arrest the bad guys to protect the good guys. Their job is to protect us. Everything they do should be an action in hopes of reaching that final goal.

I was talking to a law enforcement officer the other day who brilliantly insisted on the difference. He said that many people in his profession often forget what their job is. They see all the bad things that happen in our communities and, naturally, are willing to do whatever it takes to bring the bad guys down. It is not their fault... If anything they care too much. However, where do you draw the line?

At what point is arresting a suspect not protecting us?

PursuitWatch knows where to draw the line when it comes to police pursuits. Unfortunately, others don't.

Candy Priano: How Many Deaths Before it's Not OK?

Candy Priano, of Kristie's Law and Voices Insisting on PursuitSafety (or VIPS), wrote a wonderful editorial response to Thomas Sowell linked HERE from the Conservative Voice. Many of you might ask, "Have we not beaten this horse enough already?" Perhaps. Perhaps not. Simply stated, it is appalling to many Americans, not just Candy and I, that a man as educated as Mr. Sowell can be so far off. Below are a few excerpts from Candy's editorial.

Sowell wants you to believe we are “critics” of law enforcement.

B-I-N-G-O. This is something I have to deal with daily: The perception that our organization is anti-L.E. This couldn't be further from the truth. We care deeply for the safety of police officers. Every time they involve themselves in a pursuit they are risking their life. They should not be forced to make that decision. We want every police officer to go home to his/her family each night. Is that anti-law enforcement?

Voices Insisting on PursuitSAFETY, founded just this year, is a national organization devoted to families of innocent bystanders killed and maimed in police pursuits.

I often get phone calls from the families of victims. Many want my help and I am more than happy to do all I can. Others, however, simply want to know that they are not alone... That there are other families that have faced the same situation. This, aside from advocating safer and smarter police pursuits, is a main purpose of PursuitWatch, and makes the whole effort worth it.

I am done talking about Thomas Sowell.... Seriously.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thomas Sowell: Swing and a miss! Part 3

I have to come back to this article one more time...

When there is a police helicopter overhead, a shot straight down would have little chance of hitting some innocent bystander.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but is a Harvard educated Ph.D suggesting police rain down a hail of bullets from the sky at fleeing vehicles?

It is unnecessary for me to argue against this. Sometimes my job is easy.,0,1832983.story

Thomas Sowell: Swing and a miss! Part 2

As mentioned before, Thomas Sowell's editorial was published on September 12 and included this nugget of wisdom:

Moreover, once there is a known policy of letting speeders escape, there will almost certainly be more speeding to get away from being arrested for a traffic violation or a more serious crime.

I don't know where to begin.

First, when the police do not chase a driver who fails to pull over does not mean he will get away. Technology available to find a car if a license plate number is attained, the ability to deploy helicopters as well as other modern police tactics does not mean we lose if the suspect becomes out of sight to the officer.

Next, Sowell implies that there is a whole segment of the population that once a department modernizes their policy, will resort to anarchy. False. People either listen to the police when spoken to, or they don't. Regardless, harsh penalties are a more then viable deterrent. This is one reason why PursuitWatch not only advocates safe pursuits, but harsh penalties as well.,0,1832983.story

Thomas Sowell: Swing and a miss!

On September 12, Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, wrote an editorial concerning police pursuits. He wrote:

We have no way of knowing whether reckless speeders would slow down if the cops didn't follow them when they tried to get away. The people they can kill when there is no police car following them will be just as dead as some innocent person killed as a result of a car chase.

I would ask Mr. Sowell this question: Which do you think is safer, one car driving dangerously through our city streets, or that same dangerous car followed by 10 police cars driving at the same speed? According to Dr. Alpert at the University of South Carolina, 40% of police pursuits end in accidents. Is the percentage the same for speeders Mr. Sowell? No.

Read the editorial in the Baltimore Sun here:,0,1832983.story

Read Part II

Read Part III

Car Chase Stopper... Is it safe?

I receive, with surprising frequency, many emails regarding new technologies that hope to end police pursuits. The latest is that of Car Chase Stopper, which "is a device mounted on law enforcement vehicles that allows an officer to bring a vehicle being pursued to a controlled and safe stop."

View their website here:

Unfortunately, I'm not sold on this one. First, it requires the police to be VERY close to the vehicle it is pursuing. Of course, this is very dangerous. Next, it requires compliance from the suspect. In other words, the fleeing car must remain a relatively consistent rate of speed and direction in order to allow law enforcement to get in the correct position and effectively use the device. The video provided on the website does not prove it is safe. If you will notice, once the fleeing car is caught by the device it fishtails to the right... Hmm.

When all is said and done, there are simply too many variables to make this a worthy option for law enforcement.

I, however, would like to thank JCCS inc. for their efforts. It is this type of inventive spirit that will eventually solve the problem of police pursuits.