Thursday, January 31, 2008

Letter to the Sacramento Bee

On Monday afternoon, a vehicle being pursued by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department crashed violently into a car carrying a family of four in Rancho Cordova. Two children were transported to UC Davis Medical Center, while their parents were taken separately to the Mercy San Juan Medical Center, over 15 miles away. According to the Sherriff’s department, the vehicle being pursued was being chased for merely failing to yield. Although the driver of the vehicle opting to flee police custody bears the brunt of the responsibility, some of the blame for this terrible accident should be directed toward Sacramento County’s vague police pursuit policy.

Sacramento County’s current police policy allows for pursuit in almost any circumstance, stating that a pursuit is authorized when “a suspect exhibits the intention of evading arrest by using a vehicle to flee or when a suspected law violator refuses to stop.” The policy also stipulates that certain factors must be considered when determining whether any pursuit should be initiated, continued or terminated, though these factors are not well-defined. A pursuing officer and his supervisors must weigh “the seriousness of the originating crime and its relationship to community safety,” as well as factors such as location of pursuit, weather conditions, volume of traffic, and time of day.

A poorly-defined policy puts entirely too much pressure on the decision making ability of the pursuing officer and their supervisors. A police officer cannot and should not be expected to make a life or death decision on the basis of such vague legalese. The current policy is such that if an officer makes the wrong decision, and innocent people are injured or killed, the county and the officer could face endless litigation. That is not fair to our already overburdened law enforcement agencies.

The current pursuit policy further overburdens law enforcement officers by stating that “[i]t is the duty of the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle to exercise that amount of care which, under all circumstances, would not pose an unreasonable risk to others.” It continues, noting that “[t[he immediate apprehension of the violator is no more important than the safety of innocent persons or the officer(s) involved. When it becomes apparent that the immediate apprehension is outweighed by an unreasonable danger to the officer or others, the pursuit must be terminated.”

In the case of the vehicle pursuit in Rancho Cordova, the pursuing officer and his supervisors decided that the seriousness of the suspect’s crime, failure to yield, outweighed the risk involved in pursuing the suspect down a busy street in the middle of the day. Hindsight lets us see that the safest option would have been to, record the license plate number, of the fleeing vehicle, if possible, and terminate the chase. This rational response would have helped to avoid a serious accident involving an innocent family. Unfortunately, the officers involved in the pursuit didn’t have the luxury of hindsight, and were forced to make a split-second decision most likely under the influence of a great amount of adrenaline.

We at believe that the Sacramento County Sherriff’s office must develop a progressive, well-defined policy that allows only for the active pursuit of those suspected of committing a violent crime. A properly-defined policy would take the burden of split-second decision making off of our police officers, and would result in a safer community. In Orlando, Florida, the adoption of such a policy has proven to be extremely successful. At some point, law enforcement agencies must decide whether it is more important to make an arrest, or to keep the community safe. If a well-defined pursuit policy was in place on Monday afternoon in Rancho Cordova, then an innocent family would not have been needlessly injured.

John T. Fox
Vice President
Orlando, FL

Monday, January 28, 2008

Billings PD's Kathy Carson: "Pursuits are always fun!"

I came across an interesting article from Montana's News Station regarding recruiting police officers. You can read it HERE. Basically, it notes the shortage of police recruits and the techniques used to recruit. Shiny badges, cars, motorcycles. Dogs, guns, driving fast. Making it seem like police work is a video game. Apparently this is how you recruit police officers these days. Sure, as it is with every job, the employer must make its pitch, but what infuriated me was the following comment by Billings PD's training officer Kathy Carson:

"Pursuits are always fun! Although they're dangerous, they're very exciting."

Completely irresponsible. It is this sort of mentality and approach to police work that kills. I'd like to ask Kathy this:

Was it always fun when two Palm Beach officers were killed during a police chase when they were run over by one of the pursuing officers?

Was it always fun when an innocent 17-year-old Chris Cooper was killed while riding his bike?

Was it always fun when 404 people were killed in 2006 as a result of police pursuits? Or how about 2005, when 359 people were killed? That must have been fun.

Was it always fun when an innocent 22-year-old Steven Cornell was killed in Tampa?

There are countless officers who understand their duty and with honor and valor patrol the streets putting their life at risk to save lives. I can only hope that these poor recruiting methods don't put the wrong ideas into our law enforcement officers heads.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Introducting a new Vice President is pleased to announce a new Vice President. John Fox, a graduate of the University of Florida, brings his background in the political process, media relations, the policy implementation process, and passion for the issues to the team. Aside from advocating safer and smarter police pursuits, Mr. Fox will also be a regular contributor to this blog. He specializes in editorial writing, and will help the cause by campaigning in those cities and towns that need it the most. You can contact him directly at, or by phone at 321-277-5115.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sacramento: 5 hurt in police chase

A vehicle being pursued by police for failure to yield crashed violently into a car carrying a family of four Monday afternoon in Sacramento, California. Two children were transported to UC Davis Medical Center, while their parents were taken to the Mercy San Juan Medical Center, over 15 miles away. According to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, none of the injuries were critical, though at first glance the accident seems to be the result of a hastily-considered police pursuit. If ‘failure to yield’ was indeed the only reason for the pursuit of a vehicle on a busy Sacramento street in the middle of the afternoon, than the police department was acting in a negligent manner. We at are concerned over this apparent lack of judgment by the Sacramento Sherriff’s Department, and will be following the story as it develops.

Read more HERE.

Written by's John Fox

Florida Today: "2-hour chase ends in lagoon dunk"

img: Amanda Stratford - Florida Today

Officers observed a man driving erratically, and ended up in a two hour long pursuit that ended with the suspects car in the Indian River Lagoon. In an interesting twist, the chase had appeared to ended, then begun again.

The chase appeared to have ended after the initial responding officer, Lt. Bert Berrios, crashed into a motorist at Jackson Avenue and South Patrick Drive while in pursuit of McCullagh. Berrios and the motorist were unharmed.

McCullagh, who had also struck a tree 15 minutes into the chase, drove off, police said. But McCullagh drove back by the accident scene about an hour later and the chase began again with new deputies in place, including the police chief, Cote said.

For more, click HERE.

Did erratic driving warrant a pursuit in this case? No.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chase on 1-4 in Lakeland, FL (with video)

Police chased and eventually arrested 5 teenagers (19, 19, 15, 16, and 18) streaming from a home burglary in Lakeland, FL. During the chase the suspects car, which wound up being stolen, sideswiped a tractor-trailer who's driver was taken to the hospital.

Source: Lakeland Ledger

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Voices Insisting on PursuitSAFETY Newsletter: Inaugural Edition

Voices Insisting on PursuitSAFETY (VIPS) has released their first newsletter. Topics include OnStar, the suspension of 13 deputies in Florida, the Chris Cooper tragedy, and more. If you are not signed up to receive the newsletter, I encourage you to do so by visiting the VIPS website HERE. The sign up is down on the right.

VIPS is directed by Candy Priano of Chico, CA and has a clear and precise mission statement:

PursuitSAFETY is a national organization that joins communities, police officers, and public officials with 80,000 plus family members who have had blameless children, parents, and brothers and sisters killed or maimed when police chases spun out of control.

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.

PursuitSAFETY will achieve this goal through encouraging education, research and awareness regarding police pursuits, and by sponsoring and promoting legislation designed to strike an appropriate balance between apprehending suspected criminals and public safety.

Below is the newsletter. Again, to sign up visit VIPS HERE.

HERE you can actually view an image of the newsletter that is readable.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Orlando Sentinel: Murder suspect arrested after chase on I-4

According to the Orlando Sentinel, a murder suspect was arrested this morning following a chase in downtown Orlando that included parts of I-4.

The suspects exited at Colonial Drive, striking several vehicles at the exit ramp, Jones said. Both Frasilus and Knox, 26, suffered minor injuries in the crashes. "Unfortunately [Frasilus'] actions dictated what we had to do to get him into custody," Jones said.

Police captured the pair and took them into custody at Colonial and Hughey Avenue. The tan Buick they were in suffered damage to the passenger's side and was towed away from the scene after crime scene investigators examined the mess.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Monday, January 14, 2008

2007: A deadly year for law enforcement

According to a National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and the Concerns of Police Survivors study, the 186 deaths of law enforcement nationwide in 2007 is the most since 2001. Below is a breakdown of the 186 deaths, complements of the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette.

  • 69:Number of shooting deaths in 2007, an increase from 52 in 2006.

  • 81:Number of traffic-related deaths in 2007, an increase from 73 in 2006.

  • 7:Officers killed this year who were woman.

  • 39:Average age of police officers killed in the line of duty with an average of 11.4 years in law enforcement.

  • 40:Percent of officers who were killed in felonious attacks in 2007.

  • 60:Percent of officers who died from accidental causes.

  • 51:Number of handguns used in the fatal officer shootings. Shotguns were used in eight.

  • 17:Number of federal law enforcement officers who died this year, including five special agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations who were killed in Iraq.

It's also important to note, that aside from 2001, 2007 is the deadliest year since 1989. The number of deaths in 2001 include those lost on September 11th, thus drastically altering the total.

There are many possible explanations for the horrible number, yet one thing remains certain: Law enforcement is still a very dangerous job.

I would like to thank those of you who put your life on the line daily to protect us citizens, and ask that you understand, as PursuitWatch's introduction states:

First let me say welcome. Contrary to what some have said this is not a police-bashing site. PursuitWatch does not support the abolition of police pursuits. PursuitWatch promotes safer pursuit policy and the elimination of unnecessary pursuits. As police officers, I would ask you keep an open mind as you visit these pages. I am open to your suggestions and criticisms and PursuitWatch will publish well written and reasoned rebuttals to our positions. This should be an evolving learning process for all involved. Please remember that when the suspect flees it is you, the police officer, that we depend upon to make the critical life and death decisions that affect you, the public and even the fleeing suspect. The suspect has already made a potentially deadly decision and how you react to this situation is critical. It is at this point that we rely on your training, professionalism and expertise to make the critical judgments that determine the outcomes of these events. Sure-“If the bad guys hadn’t run this wouldn’t have happened.” What is just as true is that once the suspect flees, the police officers involved have virtually as much control of the outcomes of these events as the bad guys.

Here's to working together towards a safe 2008.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's a new year

The new year has begun, and as I try to get back in the swing of things after taking some time off, there are a few things that are worth noting:

  • Everyone should check out Affordable Mobile Law Enforcement Training/High Liability. Founded by Ron Kelley, its goal is to provide affordable driver training to law enforcement. They offer a wide variety of solutions understanding potential funding issues and will even help a department solicit donations.
  • Continuing with the training talk, HERE is a story about the correlation between the lack of training and the increased number of accidents in Maryland.
  • Some interesting stories have been circling the last few weeks. The Clarion Ledger has run several stories about a potential Mississippi statewide pursuit policy that will be discussed in the upcoming legislative session. HERE is their story discussing the issue, as well as their editorial opinion HERE.
  • I have been following and writing about the Franklinton PD and their policy after the death of two innocent sisters. They have since begun to form a panel to review their pursuit policy. Read the story HERE.
2007 was a productive year. PursuitWatch has continued to grow and I have some lofty goals for 2008. All the while, innocent lives continue to be lost throughout the nation. Let us get the word out the best we can... And save lives.