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...