Analysis of the IACP report "Police Pursuits in an Age of Innovation and Reform"
I was recently given an interesting report entitled Police Pursuits In An Age of Innovation and Reform, compiled by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The IACP has been very active on this issue for more than a decade—their Model Pursuit Policy which was introduced in 1996.
In 1998, the National Institute of Justice formed the Pursuit Management Task Force to expand the research on Police Pursuits. One of several recommendations made in that report was the need for “a national model for collection of pursuit statistics.” In response to that suggestion the IACP began the Police Pursuit Database Project in 2000. The goal of that project was to create an internet based system where police agencies could submit information about their vehicle pursuits and in turn have access to all of the data from other agencies that was being placed into the database. The sharing of this information would have the potential to help agencies model their pursuit policy and training according to the trends they were seeing within the database.
The concept was phenomenal and in 2007 the IACPvbi commissioned a report designed to analyze the 7,737 vehicle pursuit reports that had been placed into the Police Pursuit Database. Below is a summary of the IACP report along with my personal observations on the issue.
The Importance of Pursuits
Along with the restrictive policies, modern professional agencies are increasingly moving towards a more proactive approach to fighting crime rather than the traditional approach of reacting to crime. This new approach combined with technology has had a positive effect in many jurisdictions in lowering the crime rate but they can also increase the number of vehicle pursuits. For instance, a COMPSTAT management approach of deploying officers to “hotspots” of crime will no doubt increase the chances an officer will engage in a vehicle stop where a criminal may flee. Computers in cars with the ability to check license plates, etc. likely increase the chances a stolen car or wanted subject would be located in a vehicle, which could create additional vehicle pursuits then a mere reactive approach to crime produces.
The IACP Report summarizes the concerns above as “…a move towards more proactive policing as well as the increased use of information, analysis, and information technologies – provide a contemporary context for police pursuits. Not only does a shift toward proactivity have the potential to alter the reason, situation, and perceptions of pursuits, but the advent of increased use of information technologies and data in police agencies improves the ability of the police to monitor, analyze, and assess pursuit practices.”
Police Pursuit Research
The majority of his research was cited in this IACP report and while the specific details of each report were not listed in this report and cannot be listed in this particular article, there are some common trends in the entire body of research that should be discussed.
Despite the past research there remain many questions still not answered and departments remain skeptical to change policy and practices based on such a limited body of research on the issue. Not to mention that not one past research project had data that exceeded 86 agencies with the vast majority only looking at one agency.
The IACP report specifically asks that agencies make their decisions on pursuit policy more evidenced based by using the information from the existing data or their own. A 2000 study by Dr. Alpert titled “Police Pursuits: What We Know” cites Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske as saying: “This far, many police leaders, officers, policy makers, and the public have been trying to answer questions without the benefit of comprehensive research. Policies (Pursuit) have been made stricter or more lenient based on isolated pursuit incidents, or on assumptions about how law violators decide whether or not to flee from the police.”
The concerns raised by Chief Kerlikowske and others only reiterate the importance of what the IACP is doing with the Police Pursuit Database. That system is currently voluntary but think of the power the information could give our law enforcement leaders and trainers in making sound decisions if the database was used on a more frequent, possibly mandatory basis.
The IACP Police Pursuit Database
One of the most troubling data elements in the IACP report was the termination methods used in a pursuit. In 94.3 percent of the pursuits, there were no methods used and in just 3.4 percent of the pursuits, tire deflation devices were used. The PIT Maneuver was used to terminate less than one percent of all pursuits.
As stated before, a police vehicle pursuit is one of the most dangerous activities a law enforcement agency can engage in. Danger not only exists for the officer(s) and the suspect(s) but for every innocent citizen that happens to be on the road at the time of the pursuit. To comprehend that in 2009, we are not using termination methods to stop these pursuits is incomprehensible at best. Tire deflation devices are the most logical choice and the fact that they are only used in 3.4 percent of these pursuits tells me that they are not being provided to all officers in the course of their duty. The days of giving these devices to just supervisors, commanders, or to no one at all have to end. Tire Deflation Devices cost less than $500 per vehicle. I simply do not see where any excuse is acceptable.
One of the most successful means to end a pursuit is through tactical intervention such as the PIT Maneuver. Despite the success agencies have seen, we still see a lack of wide usage especially among our large urban police departments. I’ve heard just about every excuse to not use PIT than I can count but very of them are valid. Despite what television show you may have seen, when done correctly the PIT Maneuver is by far the most effective and safest means to end a pursuit than we currently have.
One note of advice, if you are reading this and you happen to disagree with me. Let me know what city you are in because I would rather my family drive through a town that wanted to stop pursuits through intervention rather than let them continue to drive around a city, placing countless innocent civilians in harms way. Think about this way. A man is wielding a rifle and freely walking the streets with innocent bystanders walking beside him. Will you let him continue to do that or will you use an intervention technique? Of course you would eliminate that threat to yourself and others. Than why are we as a profession not embracing the techniques that have been proven to be successful to end police pursuits?
This report was ultimately conducted to improve on the existing Police Pursuit Database Project. With only 56 participating agencies, the data continues to be limited and it only makes sense that what we can learn, while important, is limited in scope.
What does that mean for you as an instructor, manager, supervisor or officer? We should embrace this project and participate in it. I plan to include my agencies data knowing that maybe it can help others. Please think about including yours as well.
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