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 abc13.com 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 CarChaseStopper.com and for sharing your impressions. We appreciate this great opportunity to get our ideas out in a public forum. PursuitWatch.org 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.


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.


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:

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: http://www.carchasestopper.com/

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.