Wednesday, January 9

No More High Speed Police Chases



I don't know how many police chases there are each year in Jacksonville, but one that recently led to the death of a kidnapping victim will open the JSO policies up to scrutiny. About five years ago, this debate was a big deal in Milwaukee, after a few high speed chases resulted in innocent bystanders getting hurt. Back then, I sat in a bar with a police officer friend and created an invention in my head. He said it would never work. Less than a year later, Milwaukee was using this invention (which someone else sold them) on their police vehicles. Maybe Jacksonville needs to look into similar technology.





Actually, my kids came up with the same invention when I explained the local story to them. A man robbed a gambling shop (that should not exist), kidnapped a man while stealing the victim's vehicle, and led the police on a chase that reached speeds of 100 mph. Most of the action happened within a few miles of our home. The kids are interested in Marvel movies and Star Wars, and we'd just watched more than one movie that showed a person catching another person in outer space without the use of a high speed chase. While I didn't get into the challenges of actually using the technology in the movies over the vast expanses of space, I was impressed that they had the same idea I did: use a tracking device.

So my Milwaukee Police Department friend argued it wasn't possible to track a suspect's car. It was science fiction. A stupid idea. And it would let too many suspects get away, anyhow. I told him it might work and that his duty was to serve and protect my family, not necessarily to catch every single criminal. I believe the eventual system was mounted to the front of the police cruisers, and with the push of a button, it deploys, sticking to the vehicle in its path. I am sure there are handheld versions, too. Then you just back off enough so that no one else gets hurt, whether it's a hostage or my kids on their bikes.

Problem is, the debate in Jacksonville is going to be about whether or not a PIT maneuver should have been used, not whether or not a high speed chase should have happened in the first place. I know, we want criminals caught, but if there's a better way, then it's an idea to consider. The situation in question is a perfect example of the potential for a tracker. One officer was hurt trying to stop the vehicle with spikes, and another officer was hurt when the suspect slammed on his brakes. I've seen the video several times of many JSO officers standing and watching the vehicle drive by them, not wanting to shoot at a hostage or in a neighborhood. But if just one of those policemen had a GPS tracker that he could have shot at the vehicle, then the potential exists that the chase could have ended better. The officers probably could have walked up and slapped a tracking device right onto the side of the slow-moving escape vehicle in this case. But you can't use the technology if you don't have it, so JSO had to react in the traditional way when it comes to high speed chases.

I'm hoping Jacksonville at least looks into using some kind of tracking system for police chases. Sometimes, it's just not worth putting more people in danger. I know that my police officer friends felt that more criminals would run once the policy changed to not initiate high speed pursuits in Milwaukee (done even before the tracking devices were implemented). That's probably somewhat true. And I haven't looked at the stats in cities that use trackers. I do know that it worked well for Obi-Wan for tracking Jango Fett.