We also try to keep track of trends in pursuit operations—and the frequency of pursuit-related deaths, still holding steady at about one per day. In the absence of federally mandated reporting of pursuit-related fatalities, we rely on news reports to track this. We know that the pursuit-related circumstances of some traffic deaths are never reported. So we appreciate reporters who make the connection clear. Still, most stories leave other facts fuzzy, hindering our ability—and that of family members of those killed—to assess what happened. We get it; reporters work under deadline pressure. Reporters must also respect their sources, so they politely accept the information law enforcement offers. And a reporter who pushes too hard, or wrinkles the brow while searching for a penetrating angle, may appear to law enforcement as an adversary, rather than a representative of the fourth estate just doing their job. We suggest that reporters ask a few key questions every time a pursuit-related death or injury occurs. Answers to the questions below will reveal a great deal about the way a particular agency responded to a too frequent event—the driver who refused to stop for police:
Retired Police Captain, Tom Gleason of Tallahassee, Florida, helps us answer this question during a New Zealand podcast. Gleason is a member of PursuitSAFETY’s Advisory Board and has a passion for law enforcement training. A trainer for major academies in Florida, Gleason teaches officer safety in such areas as firearms, patrol procedures, and vehicular pursuit policies.
The podcast discusses the police chase that took place in New Zealand, taking another innocent victim’s life, Carmen Yanko. She was driving to the market when a car fleeing police crossed the center line at 5.40 am and crashed head-on into her vehicle on State Highway 6 at Hope.
Tom Gleason had this to say:
“…we first started seeing changes in pursuits probably about 20 years ago with certain restrictions as far as speeding and minor offenses…They came about after the public’s outcry about the number of innocent people that were losing their lives in pursuits such as speeding vehicles. So from that, we have seen drastic reductions in the number of injuries, the number of accidents, the number of fatalities resulting from pursuits…”
There were about 500 pursuits last year, up 60% from 2014, 1 in 5 being results in a wreck; totaling 700 car wrecks last year.
Gleason states that when deciding to pursue a vehicle, police need to ask these questions:
- Do we have a tag number?
- Can we follow up later on with these tag numbers?
- Do we have cameras on that will identify this person?
- Are there other ways we can identify this person later on?
- If so then there is no reason to chase.
Listen to the entire podcast here: https://www.pursuitsafety.org/press/
Throughout the video, we watch as the fleeing driver enters the wrong side of the road, goes through green lights, and dodges cars. The driver does everything possible to increase the risk of involving an innocent victim. During this pursuit, the police make the right choice to stop the chase by performing the PIT and decreases all possible risks of casualties. Once the vehicle was stopped everything slowed down; no police officers rushed to the driver, but they delegated each response. We must remember the hazards of pursuits and the multiple lives that are endangered during the chase. Sometimes the PIT is not always the answer or cannot be performed in the safest manner. We encourage officers to continue to think outside the box and use any alternative routes to avoid accidents, especially on crowded roads. -Savannah McIntosh
We must remember this job is not personal. We must take our emotions out of our job. It was not my partner or me as a person that caused this guy to flee; it was the uniform and the patrol car. It could have been anyone in uniform driving it, and the results would have been the same. We can not let our emotions dictate our response.We must remain in control to make sound and safe decisions that will result in us going home the same way we came to work. Find ways to take the stress out of your life through hobbies or exercise. We cannot win every incident we face. Just remember, as a wise instructor once taught me, bad money keeps turning back up. I promise you this was not the first time this suspect fled, and it will not be his last. The suspect will eventually get caught. Make sure you stay in both the policy and the law. But also take the time to make sure the risk is worth the reward.
PursuitSAFETY is fortunate that David agreed to blog for us. He, too, wants to save lives.
David represents many in law enforcement who sign up for this challenging profession to help people in their time of need. He has worked in the criminal justice industry for eleven years as an application developer and has served as a law enforcement officer for five years. He holds two positions, one with a law enforcement/federal government consulting firm in Tallahassee and as an officer for a major university police department. David also served as a Class I Reserve Deputy with the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office.
He expanded his knowledge through his involvement with other programs, including the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), Tribe and Territory Sex Offender Registration Program (TTSORS), VALOR for Blue, and Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT).
An avid sports fan, David enjoys being a sports official (referee). He serves as a volunteer judge for the Leon County Teen Court program but tells stories about his previous work with the leagues from Little League to non-conference D-I.
David is a certified Florida CJSTC Instructor and is certified to teach NRA Pistol Safety & Basics of Pistol Shooting, Below 100, SABRE Aerosol Pepper Spray for LEOs, De-escalation Techniques Officer Safety Basics, Anti-Ambush Tactics and Case Studies, and Recognizing and Preventing Complacency.
David holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University in Management Information Systems. David graduated from the Florida Public Safety Institute (Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy)