Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Driver training stops after the academy...

Our friend, Ron Kelley, was recently featured in a story by KSDK concerning police vehicle training in Illinois and Missouri.

Ron Kelley has been in law enforcement for the past 27 years and is affiliated with the Association of Law Enforcement Emergency Response Trainers and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. He travels the country teaching advanced driving classes to police and troopers.

"If they have not had any training since they were in the academy, Leisa, humans resort back to bad habits. They become complacent. They need to be reminded," Kelley said. "Eighty percent of their career is behind the wheel of a vehicle and operating at very high speeds. That training needs to be emphasized."

Kimberly Cochran, ISP Academy Commander, does not agree with Kelley's philosophy.

"We don't do the driving because the officers use that skill every day. They drive over 45 million miles a year and they use those skills daily," Cochran said.

Unfortunately, Kimberly Cochran isn't right. Do officers us the PIT maneuver daily? Do they deploy stop sticks daily? Do they practice proper communication and strategy of a pursuit with fellow officers daily? Exactly.

You can read the full story HERE. There is also an accompanying video.

GPS and OnStar: No exception to sound policy

Last October, GM announced that 19 of its new models would be equipped with the technology, through OnStar, that would allow law enforcement to ask the engines of cars they were pursuing to be remotely shut off. The idea is that this would bring a safe and quick end to these situations. Around the same time, the LAPD was testing StarChase, a devise mounted on patrol cars that shoots a GPS tracking devise that sticks to fleeing cars. Considering Los Angeles had over 600 pursuits last year, any new testing is a welcomed idea. Both StarChase and the OnStar products use state of the art technologies which no one could have imagined years earlier would be possible. Fox News, the USA Today, and CBS News called, wanting to know what I thought about these exciting new technologies.

They asked: “Do you support these technologies?” Yes, I support all technologies that might make the job of law enforcement safer and more effective. Much like the two-way radio, helicopter, and the computer have helped police protect their communities, StarChase and OnStar might once prove as important as those previously mentioned. I understand that when an officer engages in a pursuit of a suspect, he or she is putting their life in danger every time. If these technologies make it possible for more officers to go home safe to their families every evening, then let us see if it works.

“Will it make pursuits a thing of the past?” They continued, adding “If police had this technology in 2001, would your sister still be alive?” I can answer both of these questions at once: I don’t know.

But this is what I do know, that the potential for these technological advancements does not take the place of safe and smart policy. First, the costs of these new technologies are high, and with the already incredibly stretched budgets of out nations departments, don’t expect to see devices on your local patrol cars that can shoot a GPS tracker onto a suspects car anytime soon. The StarChase technology requires the suspect vehicle to be either stopped or going very slow at a close range. What if the patrol car doesn’t get anywhere near the suspects car? Let us also not forget that this new OnStar technology will only be included on a small fraction of the vehicles out there. Chances are this wont be an option in the vast majority of situations for many years.

Some have come to me, including The Economist, wondering what I thought about the civil liberties implications of these new technologies. Could these devices be easily abused? Would this allow law enforcement to always know what I’m doing? Is this Big Brother? This is not my place to comment. However, this side of the debate shows even more so the need for clear and defined policy that lets officers know what can and can’t be done. Hopefully, a policy that clearly states the wrongs and rights of these technologies can cut down on cases that might bring civil liberties issues into question.

So, until that time, all departments should adopt a policy that requires adequate training for police officers, only pursues those who are suspected of committing violent crimes, allows for complete and painstaking review of all incidents, and makes available to the public all requested information. Until this becomes common practice, these technologies are no more than a story in the newspaper.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fleeing suspects crash into wall in Orange County

According to the Orlando Sentinel, when two men were pulled over and questioned about their potential involvement in an armed robbery, they sped off at a high rate of speed. Shortly after, the Sheriff's Department's helicopter spotted a vehicle matching the description that had crashed into a brick wall.

The men were arrested for fleeing from deputies, but investigators did not confirm if the two men were responsible for the armed robbery. The victim in that crime told deputies the robbers were wearing masks, reports show.

No word on what exactly transpired from when the suspects decided to flee till they crashed into the brick wall.

Continue to the Orlando Sentinel story HERE.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Questions remain in Snohomish County

Did the officer involved in a pursuit that led to the death of the fleeing suspect, an 18 year-old high school student, use the PIT maneuver?

Was it justified in this case?

Herald Writer Jackson Holtz asked Ron Kelley, a friend of PursuitWatch, his opinion:

The PIT generally is most effective between 25 and 45 mph, said Ron Kelley, a retired police driving instructor from the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, near Orlando, Fla.

Anything slower and the car being bumped doesn't have enough force to stall out when spun around, he said. At higher speeds the results are unpredictable.

Police haven't said how fast Privrasky was driving when the deputy attempted the PIT.

Nakao said he was driving behind the chase, which was moving fast.

"It's not every day you see a police chase like that," Nakao said.

He said he saw Privrasky's car leave the road and couldn't tell whether the deputy made contact with the car.

As police reconstruct the crash, they'll likely weigh everything the deputy had to take into consideration that night before attempting the PIT, Kelley said.

While the retired deputy is careful not to second-guess the deputy's decision, questions remain unanswered.

While the pursuit started because Privrasky was speeding, it became a felony when he did not pull over for the officer and tried to flee. Sheriff's deputies are allowed to chase vehicles only when a felony has been committed.

Kelley wondered whether Privasky's initial speeding warranted the risk of using the PIT, or could there have been another option? "Could he have been identified and arrested a later time at a later place?" he asked.

Captain Travis Yates of the Tulsa PD, another friend of PursuitWatch, was also quoted:

The PIT maneuver is an effective way to stop the bad guys, said Travis Yates, a captain with the Tulsa (Okla.) Police Department who runs

Like any police tool, it's not without some risk to both the pursued and the police, said Yates, who is considered an expert on PIT maneuvers.

"Anytime a law enforcement action ends in a fatality, it's a tragedy on both sides," Yates said. "We have to always remember that police don't go out on the streets and intend on going on pursuits. For some reason some people decide they want to flee."

Click HERE to read the whole story...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Greensboro News Record

The deaths of Linsay and Maggie Lunsford in early December are still being felt in North Carolina. The following editorial quoted Jim Phillips, founder of PursuitWatch.

Linsay Lunsford looked like she had a great future. Passionate about community service, the 18-year-old had moved to Greensboro in 2007 to attend UNCG to become an elementary school teacher. But a trip to Creedmoor on Dec. 1 to see family proved fatal. She was killed in a crash with a man fleeing from Franklinton police. The man, Guy Christopher Ayscue, high on cocaine, also was killed. So was Lunsford's nine-year-old sister, Maggie.

It's impossible to know if the sisters' deaths could have been avoided. Ayscue was being pursued because he had been driving on the wrong side of the road. Still, as Jim Phillips, the late founder of, said, "A drunk at 40 mph is much less dangerous than a drunk at 80 mph."

Pursuitwatch is just one of several Web sites dedicated to improving the safety of high-speed police chases. Such sites often are started, as Pursuitwatch was, by people left bereft after having an innocent family member killed as a result of a high-speed police chase. As reporter Ryan Seals' Sunday story in the News & Record pointed out, such deaths take place on a daily basis across America, with thousands injured annually because of them.

Click HERE to continue.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Teen flees, mom dies, children hurt

Minneapolis - A 15 year old in a stolen car fled from police and while speeding through an intersection Sunday, slammed into a car carrying a mother, her son, and her sons friend en route to Sunday school.

Hanna Abukar, 26, of Minneapolis died at the scene, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner's office. She was driving her son and a neighbor boy to Sunday school at a mosque, said Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center. Abukar's son was in critical condition and the other boy was in stable condition, Jamal said.

Officers had tried to stop the teenager because of a simple traffic violation. When the boy refused, the pursuit began. Soon after, officers learned that the car they were chasing had been reported stolen. The pursuit was called off because of safety concerns about a half mile from the crash scene.

Let's hope the MPD exercises proper oversight of this incident.

Continue HERE.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Daily Herald

An article was published today in the Daily Herald of Everett, Washington featuring quotes from PursuitWatch President John Phillips. We applaud the efforts of Herald writers Jackson Holtz and Jim Haley, for stressing the importance of smart pursuit policy by contrasting two local police pursuits with radically different outcomes. We urge the readers of this blog to read the full contents of the article HERE.

Somewhat inexplicably, given the body of the article, the authors end with a quote from Seattle attorney and police pursuit expert Andy Cooley, who states that, “[a]t the end of the day, the people who die [in police pursuits] are victims of the crime, they're not victims of the police… These are crime-related, not police-related fatalities.”

Cooley is correct in stating that innocent victims of police pursuits should hold the fleeing suspect accountable; that’s not a question. We cannot, however, control the decisions of fleeing suspects. Instead, the question is: should we compound the fleeing suspect’s bad judgment with another bad decision, and elect to chase him? At PursuitWatch, we think not. We believe that, in many circumstances, these victim’s lives could have been spared if smart, progressive, police pursuit polices were in place.