High-speed police pursuits: dangers, dynamics, and risk reduction.
High-peed police pursuits and the inherent risk of injury and death that can result constitute an important law enforcement and public safety issue. Police pursuits are dangerous. Available data indicate that the number of pursuits continues to increase, as well as the number of pursuit-related injuries and deaths. A traffic accident constitutes the most common terminating event in an urban pursuit, 1 and most people agree that these pursuits should be controlled. Yet, researchers note a widespread lack.
Officers face the basic dilemma associated with high-speed pursuits of fleeing suspects: Do the benefits of potential apprehension outweigh the risks of endangering the public and the police? 2 Research indicates that too many restraints placed on the police regarding pursuits can put the public at risk. 03 In the other hand, insufficient controls on police pursuit can result in needless accidents and injuries.
The Dangers of Pursuit
The interpretation of the term "pursuit-related crash" represents one common police practice that affects accuracy of reporting. Often, police officers or their agencies will make the determination that a crash occurred right after a pursuit was "terminated," hence the crash is not pursuit-related. Agencies immediately can determine if this occurred by replaying tapes of radio transmissions during the pursuit, even days after completing a comprehensive accident investigation or reconstruction. Either way, the process can be very subjective.
Some research indicates that police pursuits result in about 350 deaths per year and the number of pursuits increases each year. (4) One organization estimates that about 2,500 persons die each year as a result of police pursuits and that another 55,000 are injured. (5) Although some law enforcement sources argue that these estimates are exaggerated, they concede that the 350 figure may be too low.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, often pronounced "nit-suh") is an agency of the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, part of the Department of Transportation. (NHTSA NHTSA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US government) ) reported that 314 people were killed during pursuits in 1998. Of this total, 2 were police officers and 198 were individuals being chased. The remaining 114 were either occupants of unrelated vehicles or pedestrians. (6) The total was higher in each of the 4 previous years.
The lack of a mandatory reporting mandatory reporting The obligatory reporting of a particular condition to local or state health authorities, as required for communicable disease and substance abuse Infectious disease State boards of health maintain records and collect data resulting from MR of system hampers attempts by NHTSA to track pursuit fatalities and results in the collection of as little as one-half of the actual data. (7) Typically, only 90 percent of states report pursuit fatality fa·tal·i·ty
1. A death resulting from an accident or disaster.
2. One that is killed as a result of such an occurrence. data to NHTSA. By extrapolating the 5-year totals to include 100 percent reporting, calculations would show an average of 375 deaths per year. Even conservative estimates by various researchers recalculate re·cal·cu·late
tr.v. re·cal·cu·lat·ed, re·cal·cu·lat·ing, re·cal·cu·lates
To calculate again, especially in order to eliminate errors or to incorporate additional factors or data. the actual number of fatalities between 400 to 500 deaths per year.
Police pursuit records provide some frightening statistics. First, the majority of police pursuits involve a stop for a traffic violation. (8) Second, one person dies every day as a result of a police pursuit. (9) On average, from 1994 through 1998, one law enforcement officer was killed every 11 weeks in a pursuit, (10) and 1 percent of all U.S. law enforcement officers who died in the line-of-duty lost their lives in vehicle pursuits. (11) Innocent third parties who just happened to be in the way constitute 42 percent of persons killed or injured in police pursuits. (12) Further, I out of every 100 high-speed pursuits results in a fatality. (13)
Research indicates that pursuits become dangerous quite quickly. For example, 50 percent of all pursuit collisions occur in the first 2 minutes of the pursuit, and more than 70 percent of all collisions occur before the sixth minute of the pursuit. (14)
Although the public sympathizes with the law enforcement community's position on pursuits, they do not want to be placed in harm's way harm's way
A risky position; danger: a place for the children that is out of harm's way; ships that sail into harm's way. . Public support for pursuits decreases as the severity of the offense that led to the chase decreases. (15) One study found that 58 percent of people interviewed reported that police act correctly when they pursue a motorist who does not stop. (16) When asked if the police act correctly when the pursuit endangers public safety, support decreased by one-half to 29 percent. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents said that they felt police overreact o·ver·re·act
To react with unnecessary or inappropriate force, emotional display, or violence. sometimes or very often when pursuing motorists who do not stop. (17) To decrease the dangers associated with pursuit, agencies must increase training and ensure that they have clear pursuit policies.
Training and Policy
A lack of training can increase risks of pursuit-related injuries. Only recently has classroom instruction included training on vehicle pursuit tactics, policy, and liability. Previously, agencies taught pursuit-driving techniques behind the wheel without accompanying classroom training. Officers learned how to pursue but not when to pursue. Inadequate or inapplicable in·ap·pli·ca·ble
Not applicable: rules inapplicable to day students.
in·ap training often resulted, and officers rarely followed training in actual practice. Law enforcement must approach pursuit training similar to firearms training. For example, for every hour agencies spend on training officers how to shoot, they also spend several hours teaching when to shoot. (18)
The training deficiency trend has changed in the past few years. Although many agencies have increased or added pursuit training, most have done so only for new officers at the police academy. Therefore, most veteran officers, with their academy days far behind them, lack contemporary pursuit training.
Training should teach officers the phenomena present while they pursue. Tunnel vision tunnel vision
Vision in which the visual field is severely constricted.
n a defect in sight in which a great reduction occurs in the peripheral field of vision, as if one is looking through makes them oblivious to what is going on around them. Some 96 percent of officers involved in a pursuit focus on catching the violator "if it's the last thing (they'll) ever do." (19) Research shows that this holds true for many officers. (20)
While effective pursuit training can curtail certain dangerous situations, policy constitutes another important aspect in police pursuits. (21) An overwhelming majority of police agencies implemented their pursuit policy in the 1970s. (22) Although most of these same agencies modified their policies in the past 2 years by adding restrictions due to liability, problems remain. Insufficiencies still exist in data collection, reporting procedures, and accompanying accountability. (23)
One comprehensive study shows that officers can use termination as an effective option to reduce the risks of pursuits. (24) This study involved interviews of 146 jailed suspects who had been involved as drivers in high-speed chases. More than 70 percent of the suspects said that they would have slowed down if police had terminated the pursuit or even backed off a short distance. (25) Fifty-three percent of the suspects responded that they were willing to run at all costs from the police in a pursuit, and 64 percent believed they would not be caught. (26) While 71 percent said that they were concerned for their own safety, only 62 percent said that they were concerned for the safety of others. (27) Clearly, the police must be concerned with public safety during pursuits because the suspects are not.
An integral part of pursuit training involves giving officers a clear understanding about the decision to terminate a pursuit. The Arkansas State Police recently created new pursuit training for state and local officers that stresses keeping pursuits under control and advises that termination is an option. (28)
Alternatives to Pursuit
The most effective way to reduce risks is to terminate a pursuit. Clearly, too many pursuits continue that officers obviously should have terminated. Research on pursuit data and statistics show that termination dramatically could reduce traffic accidents, fatalities, and injuries. Police must reevaluate their thinking and mission. (29) Agencies rarely can justify endangering the public to pursue a violator.
Although many electronic devices still are being evaluated for effectiveness, technology also can decrease pursuit risks. Officers can carry spiked strips (or "stop sticks") in their trunks and deploy them in the path of a fleeing suspect. The strips create a controlled loss of air (not a blowout) from the suspect's tires. Once the violator crosses the strips, the deploying officer quickly pulls them from the roadway to allow pursuing police vehicles to pass. Agencies have begun to use these strips with increasing effectiveness. For example, departments in Cincinnati, Ohio “Cincinnati” redirects here. For other uses, see Cincinnati (disambiguation).
Cincinnati is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Hamilton County. , successfully used them after they sought risk-reduction techniques following a string of pursuit tragedies. (30) Similarly, the Ohio State Highway Patrol The Ohio State Highway Patrol is a division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety and is the official highway patrol and de facto state police agency of Ohio. The several missions of the Patrol include providing roadway patrol, emergency response to all public lands, the , the Utah Highway Patrol highway patrol
A state law enforcement organization whose police officers patrol the public highways. , and the Pennsylvania State Police The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) is the state police force of Pennsylvania, responsible for statewide law enforcement. It was founded in 1905 by order of Governor Samuel Pennypacker, in response to the private police forces used by mine and mill owners to stop worker strikes also are reporting recent successful use of the spiked strips.
One electronics company is testing a radar warning system that police can activate that sends a signal to any motorist with a radar detector This article or section may deal primarily with the U.S. and may not present a worldwide view. of an approaching police pursuit. Motorists then can pull over to the side of the road or otherwise get out of the way.
Other technological ideas include an ultrasonic device that shoots a burst of microwave energy at a fleeing suspect. This causes the suspect vehicle's electronic system to fail, thus immediately disabling dis·a·ble
tr.v. dis·a·bled, dis·a·bling, dis·a·bles
1. To deprive of capability or effectiveness, especially to impair the physical abilities of.
2. Law To render legally disqualified. the violator. (31) Experts are studying a similar technology in which a robot-like cart jettisons from the front of the primary police pursuit vehicle. The cart then attempts to overtake the fleeing vehicle and electronically "zaps" the engine out of service. Researchers also are testing radio-technologic devices (similar to stolen car tracking systems) that electronically would disable the fleeing vehicle. (32)
Agencies have used helicopters with good results in pursuits, in parts of California and in cities, such as Baltimore, Maryland "Baltimore" redirects here. For the surrounding county, see Baltimore County, Maryland. For other uses, see Baltimore (disambiguation).
Baltimore is an independent city located in the state of Maryland in the United States. ; Miami, Florida “Miami” redirects here. For the Native American tribe, see Miami tribe.
Miami is a major city in southeastern Florida, in the United States. It is the county seat of Miami-Dade County. Miami is a gamma world city with an estimated population of 404,048. ; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The versatility, range, and vantage point of the helicopter allows ground officers to decrease the use of high-speed pursuits and increase apprehension rates. (33) With a helicopter observing the suspect, ground units can slow down and retreat to reduce accident risks. While most agencies cannot afford their own helicopter, they can develop regional interagency in·ter·a·gen·cy
Involving or representing two or more agencies, especially government agencies. assistance plans.
Most experts agree that increased criminal penalties also will reduce pursuits. Individuals who elude e·lude
tr.v. e·lud·ed, e·lud·ing, e·ludes
1. To evade or escape from, as by daring, cleverness, or skill: The suspect continues to elude the police.
2. and flee the police should face severe criminal penalties. Consequently, some states have made eluding e·lude
tr.v. e·lud·ed, e·lud·ing, e·ludes
1. To evade or escape from, as by daring, cleverness, or skill: The suspect continues to elude the police.
2. a second-degree crime. (34)
High-speed police pursuits constitute an important public safety issue. Research clearly indicates the dangers associated with these pursuits. While some are necessary, many are not. Curtailing unnecessary pursuits can reduce the inherent risks associated with this dangerous practice.
Law enforcement agencies A law enforcement agency (LEA) is a term used to describe any agency which enforces the law. This may be a local or state police, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). should provide appropriate pursuit training to recruits during their instruction at police academies, as well as to seasoned officers. Additionally, police administrators should ensure that their department's pursuit policy provides clear guidance and they should make use of available technology that can aid in safer pursuits. Taking such initiatives can help departments increase the effectiveness of pursuits while simultaneously reducing the risks involved to citizens and officers.
Fatalities in Crashes Involving Law Enforcement in Pursuit 1994-1998 Deaths Year 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 Suspects 283 249 267 194 198 Bystanders 102 127 118 111 114 Officers 3 10 5 1 2 Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting Systems -- ARF, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington, DC, 2000
(1.) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fatality Analysis Reporting Systems Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) was created in the United States by NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to provide an overall measure of highway safety, to help suggest solutions, and to help provide an objective basis to evaluate the effectiveness - ARF, Fatalities in Crashes Involving Law Enforcement in Pursuit 1998 (Washington, DC, 2000).
(2.) G. P. Alpert, U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Police Pursuit: Policies and Training (Washington, DC, May 1997).
(4.) Supra A relational DBMS from Cincom Systems, Inc., Cincinnati, OH (www.cincom.com) that runs on IBM mainframes and VAXs. It includes a query language and a program that automates the database design process. note 2.
(5.) R. Van Sant SANT South African Native Trust , "High-Speed Chases: Mayhem on the Street," The Cincinnati Past, May 19, 1998.
(6.) Supra note 1.
(7.) D. P. Van Blaricom, "He Flees--To Pursue or Not to Pursue: That is the Question," Police 22, no. 11, (1998).
(8.) Supra note 2.
(9.) Supra note 1.
(10.) Supra note 1.
(11.) In the Line of Duly: Police Pursuits Prove Deadly, (National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, in Washington, D.C. at Judiciary Square, honors fallen law enforcement officers.
The memorial was established by an Act of Congress in 1984, and dedicated on October 15, 1991. Fund: Washington, DC, 1997).
(12.) Supra note 7.
(13.) D. Falcone, "Police Pursuit: In Pursuit of Policy, The Empirical Study, Volume II," AAA AAA: see American Automobile Association.
(Triple A) A common single-cell battery used in a myriad of electronic devices of all variety. Like its double A (AA) cousin, it provides 1.5 volts of DC power. When used in series, the voltage is multiplied. Foundation for Traffic Safety (Washington, DC, 1992).
(14.) G. P. Alpert, U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Pursuit Management Task Force Report (Washington, DC, 1998).
(15.) Supra note 2.
(16.) Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Survey IV: Police Pursuits, (Criminal Justice Policy Foundation: New Haven New Haven, city (1990 pop. 130,474), New Haven co., S Conn., a port of entry where the Quinnipiac and other small rivers enter Long Island Sound; inc. 1784. Firearms and ammunition, clocks and watches, tools, rubber and paper products, and textiles are among the many , CT, 1998).
(18.) Supra note 7.
(19.) Supra note 7.
(20.) U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice charged with investigating all violations of federal laws except those assigned to some other federal agency. , Law Enforcement Officers Killed 1996 (Washington, DC, 1997).
(21.) Supra note 7.
(22.) Supra note 2.
(23.) Supra note 2.
(24.) Supra note 2.
(25.) Supra note 2.
(26.) Supra note 2.
(27.) Supra note 2.
(28.) P. Hill, "Training, Stiffer Penalties Considered to Curb Pursuits," Northwest Arkansas Times Arkansas Times, a weekly alternative newspaper based in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a publication that has circulated for more than a quarter-century, originally as a magazine. , December 14, 1997.
(29.) Supra note 7.
(30.) T. Bricking, "Flattened Tires End Chase," Tile Cincinnati Enquirer En`quir´er
n. 1. See Inquirer.
Noun 1. enquirer - someone who asks a question
asker, inquirer, querier, questioner , June 2, 1997; T. Bricking, "Group Advocates Safer Pursuits," Tile Cincinnati Enquirer, June 21, 1997; and J. Prendergast, "Cops Pursuit Rules Vary," The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 17, 1997.
(31.) J. Hill, "Police Pursuits and The Risks to Bystanders," doctoral program paper presented to Nova Southeastern University History
Originally named Nova University of Advanced Technology, the university was chartered by the state of Florida in 1964 as a graduate institution in the physical and social sciences. (Fort Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale (lô`dərdāl), residential, commercial, and resort city (1990 pop. 149,377), seat of Broward co., SE Fla., on the Atlantic coast; settled around a fort built (c.1837) in the Seminole War, inc. 1911. , FL, 1999).
(33.) G. P. Alpert, U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Helicopters in Pursuit Operations (Washington, DC, August 1998).
(34.) Supra note 31.
Mr. Hill, a retired New Jersey police officer, serves as an instructor of criminal justice at the University of Phoenix.