Monday, November 8, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
I don't mean this rude, as I understand where you are coming from, but why are you not fighting for more strict prosecution and greater sentences for the bad guys instead of going after the good guys trying to catch the bad guys for you?
That is what us on this side of the fense [sic] think. We are the guy running towards the bullets, putting our lives on the line at 10mph or 100mph. When does it ever come to the bad guy and his/her choice?
And let me state for the record that a stop sign, or speeding or broken tail light might not sound like all that important, but I've been doing this for 10 years and when I've been in a pursuit for those violations the suspect turned out to be a wanted murderer, car theft suspect, kidnapper, arson and many others. Do I go tell that family that I didn't chase the guy who just kidnapped their daughter, set her on fire and raped her because I wasn't 100% sure it was him driving the car that rolled through the stop sign? I hope this portrayes my frustrations. Take care and I look forward to more conversations.
Good post. I’d start out by pointing out that I certainly agree that there should be stronger penalties for those who flee the police. In my policy proposal for the Democratic nominee for Florida’s Governor Alex Sink I outlined a proposal to charge those who flee with at least a second degree felony instead of a 3rd degree. Our Mission Statement also argues that "fleeing and eluding should be a felony with mandatory prison time." If a fleeing criminal kills someone else I also argue they should be charged with murder, not manslaughter. After all, when you flee at dangerous speeds you know there is a very good chance you could hurt someone else.
We don't condone these poor decisions by who are usually young, dumb, males. However, we do believe that police should not compound bad decisions by criminals with risky behavior of their own. Of course this isn't saying that law enforcement doesn't have the best intentions. It just seems that sometimes law enforcement forgets that their job isn't to always catch the bad guys; rather it is to keep the public safe.
Next, you are right, a broken taillight might not sound like much but the suspect might be up to something much more serious. After all, when Ted Bundy was first arrested, he was pulled over for an invalid U-turn. He fled, police pursued and eventually arrested him. Unfortunately this in anecdotal evidence. Empirical evidence shows the most common crime committed, and assumed the reason for fleeing police, is that the car is stolen.
We simply believe that unless an occupant of the stolen vehicle has been suspected to have taken part in a violent crime that the dangers of pursuing for police officers and the innocent public do not make it worth it.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Re: In police pursuits, speed really can kill
Simply stated, the Henrico County Police Department must rethink their vehicular pursuit policy. First, it is simply not worth the risk to the officers and the public to pursue anyone who has not been suspected of committing a violent crime. We can run a license plate instantly, put a helicopter in the air in many cases, and radio to other officers in the area; all forms of technology that proves just because the initial officer does not chase does not mean the suspect will get away.
Next, police should not be concerned in making their policy public. Contrary to their argument, there is not some segment of the population waiting to hear what the policy is, and then refusing to pull over when asked now that they know they will get away. People either listen to the police, or they don’t. A vast majority of the time, those who flee are simply dumb young criminals who don’t want to go to jail, not vicious murderers. Just as important, a transparent policy can allow the department and the public to accurately evaluate if a pursuit should have occurred, and whether it was properly handled.
Unfortunately, it appears as if the Henrico County Police Department is not learning from the unnecessary death of Apostle Taylor, and it is just a matter of time before another innocent person is killed because law enforcement compounds the poor decisions of a young criminal with their own.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
When Sarah Phillips, a 20-year-old UCF student, was killed by a man fleeing police just outside of Orlando in 2001, and when 15-year-old Kristie Priano was killed on her way to a high school basketball game in 2002, they became two more innocent victims of police pursuits in the United States. Founded as a result of their deaths, PursuitWatch.org and PursuitSAFETY have been advocating for safe and smart police pursuits.
In regards to police pursuits, there are several important facts to take into consideration:
- Nationwide, 1 officer is killed every 6 weeks, and at least 3 innocent victims are killed each week.
- Officer deaths from vehicle collisions outnumber firearm related officer deaths.
- Pursuits result in up to 4,000 injuries to innocent Americans each year.
- From 1998-2007, at least 176 Floridians were killed during police pursuits.
- 88% of all chases are for non-violent crimes.
- Across Florida, all law enforcement agencies should be required to implement a clearly defined pursuit policy that prevents the review of a pursuit from being a guessing game. This must state what crimes warrant a pursuit, and what the proper action should be. A clearly defined policy allows officers to make the correct decision, helps in training for these situations, and for proper scrutiny and review by the chain of command to be possible.
- In Florida, those who choose to flee police should be charged with at least a 2nd degree felony. Currently, those who flee are charged with a 3rd degree felony unless they show wanton disregard (2nd degree) or cause serious bodily harm (1st degree). (See Florida Statute 316.1935)
- Law enforcement agencies should only pursue those who are suspected of committing a violent crime. Given the risk to peace officers and the innocent public, it is only worth the risk to pursue when there is an imminent threat to human life. It is also important to take into consideration that just because officers choose not to pursue with their vehicles thisdoes not mean the suspect gets away. The ability to use proven resources and technologies to apprehend drivers who flee does not require life-threatening behavior.
Executive Director, PursuitSAFETY
A National Nonprofit Organization
Monday, July 19, 2010
"Given the situation, the adrenaline involved, and the need to make a very quick decision, we don't want to have more variables that could add to bad things happening,'' says John Phillips, the president of PursuitWatch.org, whose sister was killed in a law enforcement chase.You can read the rest HERE.
Phillips points out what other agencies have already recognized. There are other ways for officers to handle the situation. In most cases, the police can get a license plate number and arrest the bad guy later.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
[The suspect] has 13 arrests in the county, including multiple convictions for drug use and a prior conviction for reckless driving while evading police. He was recently released from county jail, according to court records.
This guy has fled police before, which strengthens the case for strong punishment for those who do flee, even if they do not hurt or kill anyone.
As for this pursuit, it should have never happened. Although details are still hard to come by, according to the story, the pursuit took place during the afternoon in an urban setting near San Jose State University. The pursuit lasted about 1 mile, and the suspect struck the victim's car with such force, it nearly split in two. PursuitWatch.org was quoted in this story:
"What we have here is a dumb, young criminal making another poor decision," said John Phillips, a national police-pursuit critic. "We should not compound their bad decisions with our own."
Phillips, whose sister was killed in a similar situation in 2001, said that the CHP officer should not have pursued the suspect on the basis of an illegal turn.
PursuitWatch.org, Phillips' organization, advocates pursuing only those who are suspected of committing a violent crime. This is the policy of some departments, including San Jose's.
"The officer should have notified the chain of command that the vehicle did not pull over, obtain a license plate and description if possible, and turn around and turn off his/her lights," Phillips said. "Today's technology allows us to use other methods. Just because the suspect gets out of the sight of the first officer does not mean he will get away."
You can read the rest of the story HERE.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Watchdog groups, such as pursuitwatch.org, cite studies that show the danger of chases.
"Research shows that approximately 40 percent of all pursuits result in a crash, 20 percent result in an injury and 1 percent result in a death," said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina, during an interview with pursuitwatch.org.
Many cities do not allow police chases for car theft, according to pursuitwatch.org.
You can read the rest of the article HERE.
It's been a busy few weeks for pursuit deaths across America.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Next, police pursued a man who was thought to be involved in a "possible disturbance" ended in his death. The Monitor in South Texas covered the story:
John Phillips heads PursuitWatch.org, a website that highlights the negative consequences of police pursuits for non-violent offenses. The website was created after Phillips’ 20-year-old sister was killed as a bystander to a police pursuit in 2001.
Despite the light traffic conditions before dawn Wednesday, officers should have broken off their pursuit of Saldivar, said Phillips.
“Law enforcement has to go on what they know, and in this case the guy was just causing a disturbance,” Phillips said. “It wasn’t worth the pursuit.”
Phillips points to written pursuit policies as a way for officers and their supervisors to know how to decide during the heat of the moment — and to know “law enforcement is properly doing their job.”
Phillips disputes the notion that the responsibility rests with the person who is fleeing.
“Let’s say he was drunk,” he said. “Chasing someone because they’re drunk only compounds bad decisions. He’s already made that decision. Let’s not compound that decision and make it even worse.”
You can read the entire story HERE.
Next, in what seems like it's straight out of Hollywood, police took part in a wild chase and sequence of events in Yakima, Washington. Police started to pursue a suspected car thief until they thought they had the situation under control a few blocks later. However, the suspect jumped a fence, broke into and stole another car, driving out of the lot and nearly running over several of the officers who had exited their cars to find the suspect. A long pursuit ensued, and it ended when the suspect crashed, killing two innocent victims. From the Yakima Herald-Republic:
John Phillips, director of the Orlando-based safe-pursuit advocacy group PursuitWatch, called judging Sunday's chase in Yakima "tricky" but said he was troubled by the duration of it.
"Seven minutes, that's too long," he said. "There's just so many opportunities for something to go wrong."
Phillips, whose 20-year-old sister was an innocent victim of a 2001 police chase, noted that more than 300 people a year are killed in police pursuits, according to statistics kept since 1982 by the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of that number, roughly a third -- an average of 121 people since 1994 -- were innocent bystanders. They were either in a different vehicle or on foot or bike.
"My group isn't saying no pursuits at all, because there are times they are needed, and we want to see penalties increased for fleeing," he said.
"But pursuits shouldn't start out for minor felonies. It's like essentially shooting a gun into a crowded room."
But Merryman insisted that the incident at the used-car lot was not a minor felony. In addition to being charged Wednesday with two counts of first-degree murder, Kollman was also charged with two counts of first-degree assault for allegedly trying to run down officers during the escape.
"He's got the mindset of a cop killer," he said. "When do we let him go?"
It is important to note that the last point by Mr. Merryman justifies a pursuit for reasons that occurred after the pursuit was already initiated. If police didn't pursue the suspect from the start, the crazy events at the car lot wouldn't have happened. You can read the entire story HERE.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
"Unless the suspect has shown they don't care about human life, it's not worth it," said Phillips, whose sister was killed during a police chase in Florida.
Yesterday evening I did a short interview for a story out of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune in California. A man had stole a car, fled police and shortly after crashed into another vehicle. The innocent driver was killed.
Unfortunately, I was misquoted.
Under what he called "progressive" guidelines, most departments wouldn't chase a car thief, especially if that person was driving recklessly, he said.
"If the suspect has shown they don't care about human life, it's not worth it," said Phillips, whose sister was killed during a police chase in Florida.
What the quote should say:
"UNLESS the suspect has shown they don't care about human life, it's not worth it."
The quote that ran in the story doesn't make sense. What PursuitWatch.org advocates is only pursuing those who have displayed they pose such harm to human life that we need to do whatever it possible to catch them ASAP.
You can read the rest of the article HERE.
Monday, May 10, 2010
People are killed as a result of police pursuits that have absolutely nothing to do with them.
Most times the incident that prompted the chase turns out to be much less of a threat to public safety than the pursuit.
Any other activity that routinely and violently claims the lives of innocent people would be scrutinized and restricted, if not outlawed altogether.
That’s not the case with deadly police pursuits. Lawmakers are loath to interfere with a police officer’s right to get criminals off the streets, even though most pursuits begin with traffic violations and the person who flees is rarely wanted for a violent activity.
Further, the story notes that the Independence PD, who were chasing the fleeing man, initiated 126 chases last year. In contract, nearby Kansas City, which has a significantly larger territory and force, only took part in 105 chases.
You can read the entire column HERE.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Again, it isn't quite clear what happend from when the OCSO learned spotted Maisonet-Maldonado's and the deadly crash. Again, from the Sentinel:
Deputies later spotted the white BMW at University Boulevard and Goldenrod Road. They attempted to stop the vehicle, but Maisonet-Maldonado did not stop. Deputies said they followed him for "several minutes at normal speeds," but lost sight of the vehicle in downtown Orlando.
Orlando police said that while Sheriff's Office deputies pursued his car, a caller had reported that Alvelo's mother had received a call from Maisonet-Maldonado stating he had killed her daughter.
Shortly after deputies lost track of the BMW, it crashed into two cars that were stopped at a red light under Interstate 4 on Colonial Drive, police records show.
Under the OCSO's pursuit policy, this certainly warrants a pursuit.
Many of the charges are still pending, but Maisonet-Maldonado should NOT face vehicular homicide charges for killing the two victims in the crash. He should be charged with at least 2nd degree murder for killing Amanda Taylor and Francesca Jeffery. This is not a homicide, this is murder. Even if you are not fleeing police, if you are going 100 mph through that intersection (I happen to live 5 minutes away from the crash scene and travel through frequently), you have to know the chance that you kill someone is significant.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
"The sad thing is when departments make changes, it's usually after something bad happens, and the public wakes up and says, 'What's going on here?' " says John Phillips, head of PursuitWatch.org, a non-profit group advocating safe police chases. Phillips' sister, Sarah, 20, was a bystander killed in a police chase in Orange County, Fla., in 2001.
You can read the entire piece HERE, and if you are visiting PursuitWatch because of the story, please let me know what you think.
I ran across an interesting story out of St. Louis. According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, two SLPD officers who died in recent traffic accidents related to police pursuits were not wearing their seat belts. The Globe-Democrat noted that some officers are against wearing their seat belts because it can impede them from getting out of a patrol car quickly. It's pretty easy to disagree with that line of reasoning.
The death of the officers aside, the article was valid to include the financial considerations involved here. According to the Globe-Democrat, worker's compensation payouts are 25 percent higher when a seat belt is not worn. That is a lot. The same can be said for payouts to officer's families.
Again, the loss of life here is by far the most important consideration, but given the budgetary woes departments around the nation face today, you must also consider the financial implications of policy.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Several weeks ago the Milwaukee Police Department changed its pursuit policy to where officers can only pursue if they have probable cause that a violent felony has occurred. This is a progressive step for the department.
In late 2001, my then 20-year-old sister Sarah was on her way home from the movies when she was hit and killed by a man fleeing police. Like the four victims in Milwaukee since December 31st, Sarah’s case shows just how serious the decision to pursue must be taken.
Detractors argue that this will allow the bad guys to run wild on city streets. I could not disagree more. There is not a significant portion of the population on the fence waiting to hear what the policy is. People either listen to the police when asked to pull over, or they don’t. Those who don’t are usually young, stupid, and just don’t want to go to jail. Those who disagree with the policy change also need to understand that just because the initial officer loses sight of the suspect does not mean they will get away. Modern technology allows us to run a license plate in seconds, put a helicopter in the air, or simply radio other officers in the area.
As a friend and former police officer once told me, “Sometimes police forget that their job is not to catch the bad guy, but rather it is to protect the public.” Given this policy change, the Milwaukee Police Department understands this.
This has been submitted to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Next, a Delegate in Virginia is proposing "legislation to study the introduction of statewide guidelines for high-speed chases, a proposal that was prompted by the recent death of a Richmond pastor who was killed by a vehicle fleeing Henrico County police."
You can read the article HERE. It is very early in the process, but this looks like a step in the right direction.
Finally, I ran across a BBC story from late 2007 in which I am quoted. Check that out HERE.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
This represents a step in the right direction for Milwaukee. The change comes following the deaths of 4 people since December 31st.
Per usual, there were plenty of detractors. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, union leader Bob Donovan had this to say:
So now, if a burglary suspect or drug dealer jumps in a vehicle and refuses to stop for a patrol car, he'll be able to take off and get away because the crime was not a violent felony.
I'll start by pointing out that just because officers do not pursue a suspect DOES NOT mean they will get away. We can run a license plate, put a helicopter in the air, notify surrounding units, etc. Just because the suspect gets out of the sight of the initial officer does not mean the fight has been lost.
You can read the rest of the JS article HERE.
Yesterday the Journal Sentinel followed up with an editorial supporting the change. You can read that HERE.
I have submitted an editorial to the paper supporting the change. Check back for developments.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Under present law, the fact that law enforcement personnel pursue an actual or suspected violator of a law or ordinance who flees from pursuit does not render the law enforcement personnel, or the employers of the law enforcement personnel, liable for injuries to a third party proximately caused by the fleeing party unless the conduct of the law enforcement personnel was negligent and that negligence was a proximate cause of the injuries to the third party. This bill increases the measure of negligence that law enforcement personnel must engage in while pursuing a suspected violator, in order for such personnel or their employer to be liable for injuries to a third party proximately caused by the fleeing party, from ordinary negligence to gross negligence.
This bill also prohibits employers of law enforcement personnel from taking disciplinary action against law enforcement personnel for a pursuit of a fleeing suspect, unless such pursuit violated pursuit policies established by the law enforcement agency that employed such law enforcement personnel at the time of the pursuit.
For more on the Bill, click HERE.
Below is my letter to the members of the Subcommittee:
Members of the Tennessee House Criminal Practice Subcommittee,
This Wednesday (April 7), you will take on HB 2907. The Bill wishes to set the bar to which law enforcement is responsible for the negative consequences of police pursuits from “negligent and that negligence” to “grossly negligent and that gross negligence.”
PursuitWatch.org, which advocates for safer and smarter police pursuits, urges members of the Subcommittee to oppose the Bill.
While my organization understands the level of freedom law enforcement officers must be granted to protect the public, requiring the presence of gross negligence is simply too liberal of a concession.
Unfortunately, sometimes law enforcement forgets their job is not necessarily to catch the bad guy, but rather it is to protect the public. In 2001, my then 20-year-old sister was an innocent victim of a police pursuit. While the criminal who refused to stop for the police was imprisoned, our family also held comfort in knowing that the department and officers involved - whose negligence compounded a series of bad decisions by the criminal - were also held responsible for their actions.
Let me be clear: PursuitWatch.org does not wish to minimize the ability for law enforcement to complete their job. We simply feel that the passage of HB 2907 allows law enforcement to place themselves and the public in grave danger, without having to be accountable for their actions.
Friday, March 26, 2010
There are several factors that go into a safe policy. To begin with, officers must receive adequate training beyond the academy. The fact that officers spend a majority of time in their vehicle does not mean they have the expertise required to safely track down a fleeing suspect.
Second, all departments should have a well-defined policy that clearly states the protocol when dealing with possible pursuits. There should be no doubt in an officer’s mind as to the appropriate action to take in such a circumstance. Officers already have enough on their mind. They need to know—before they “light up” a driver—if their policy allows a pursuit should the driver decide to flee.
To read the rest of the piece, click HERE.
There were 404 fatalities nationwide that stemmed from police pursuits in 2006, according to an analysis of government data by PursuitWatch.org, a pursuit safety advocate. Among those deaths, 133 of the victims were bystanders or occupants of uninvolved vehicles.
The piece continues:
epending on the nature of the offense — especially if no felony was committed — it may be best to cut loose the suspect, despite the officer’s desire to catch the criminal.
“Using good common sense — that’s what it boils down to,” Rodriguez said. “Once you get their license plates, let them go. We’ll get them later.”
I couldn't agree more. To read the piece, click HERE.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Lasting three segments and nearly 45 minutes, I spoke with Scott about what a proper policy should be, what should have happened yesterday, what technologies are available today, and more. During the interview Scott fielded several calls from listeners. Surprisingly, a majority seemed to understand the need to have a strictly defined policy that properly weights the need to apprehend a suspect immediately and protecting the public. Others did not see it that way, yet the discussion remained civil and productive.
Thanks to Mr. Fitzgerald for having me on.
You can learn more about him and his show HERE.
I'll post a link to the audio if I can track it down...
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
- Participate in a police pursuit while driving furiously, recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public – maximum jail term: three years;
- Participate in a police pursuit while driving furiously, recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public on a second or subsequent occasion within five years of the first offence – maximum jail term: five years.
At the same time, officers still have the ability to pursue if the suspected crime warrants such. To close,
“Police pursuits are only engaged in by highly-skilled and trained officers and are subject to strict guidelines and safe driving strategies.”
It looks like NSW is doing it the right way. Proper policy, proper officer training, proper oversight, proper punishment.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
According to Towns, the approach taken by police services in Ontario is always bent toward the threat the pursuit presents to the safety of the public. This may appear to be in contrast to the American approach, which is generally more aggressive. Through extensive media attention, high-intensity, high-speed pursuits have become part of the visual vocabulary in Canadian households, but for the most part that isn't how it happens north of the border.
In fact, Ontario law states that "police are in fact only to start a pursuit if they have determined that 'there are no alternatives available as set out in the written procedures of the police force'." That is quite a difference.
You can read the rest HERE.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
According to the Orlando Sentinel,
Officers said 24-year-old Kenny Zarzuela struck Spencer George Owens' car in Tuesday's crash at Lake Margaret Drive and Semoran Boulevard while fleeing from police. Owens, 42, of Orlando, died at Florida Hospital East.Police say an officer turned on his lights upon observing Zarzuela run a red light. The suspect was driving erratically and refused to stop. The officer followed for a block or so, and when he was turning his police cruiser around, heard the sound of the collision.
Orlando Sentinel: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-crash-accident-orlando-20100119,0,6550186.story
News reports out of Orlando this morning are revealing the death of a motorist who was struck and killed by a vehicle that failed to stop at the request of the Orlando Police Department. Details are few and far between, but here is what we think we know so far:
- According to the Orlando Sentinel, OPD attempted to pull over a blue escort after it ran a red light.
- The escort failed to stop, and the police followed.
- The suspect's car then struck the victim. Rescue crews transferred the victim to the hospital, where he/she was pronounced dead.
- The suspect has been arrested. Charges have yet to be filed.
- According to WESH, police noted that they did not initiate a pursuit and that the accident happened minutes after the attempted stop.
Local 6: http://www.clickorlando.com/news/22270486/detail.html