Monday, April 26, 2010

Details emerge as fleeing murder suspect kills two in Orlando

According to police, Jose Antonio Maisonet-Maldonado stabbed his girlfriend and ran her over with his car. After police tracked him down, he fled. It is not quite clear how things progressed from there, but we know it ended in downtown Orlando when Maisonet-Maldonado, going 100 mph, stuck a car at a traffic signal, killing two. According to the Orlando Sentinel, he has a long list of priors.

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

USA Today

PursuitWatch was quoted in a USA Today story regarding departments second guessing their pursuit policies.

"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, 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.

Thursday updates

First, I did an interview recently with a reporter from USA Today about police pursuits, more specifically the change in Milwaukee. I have written about the change before, and you can read that HERE and HERE. It looks like the reporter is putting together quite an extensive article, and let's hope it runs soon.

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

Milwaukee Policy Change, Virginia Legislation, and the BBC

First, here is my editorial regarding the change of Milwaukee's policy:

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

Milwaukee PD makes a change

Several weeks ago, the Milwaukee Police Department announced changes to their department's policy. Under the new guidelines, officers must have probable cause that a violent felony has occurred, rather than just reasonable suspicion.

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

Tennessee's HB 2907

The Tennessee House Criminal Practice Subcommittee is set to take on HB 2907 this Wednesday (April 7). opposes the bill. Here is a quick summary:

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.”, 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: 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.


John Phillips