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Pursuit Statistics: What Are They Good For?

The art of self-assessment is an integral part of a progressive, proactive police department. Investigative techniques and administrative decisions are often based upon a regular statistical analysis of the crime rate in the department's community. Major crimes are required by law to be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Those reported crimes are published and often referred as the Uniform Crime Report. Regardless of where a citizen resides or what their police department tells them, the reported crime rate in their community can be obtained with ease. Collision statistics are also reported to the NHTSA. Many of you must realize that if you change locations and suddenly are forced to pay higher insurance premiums. The reporting of crimes and traffic collisions has a very important place within our society. Citizens would be shocked and angered if their local police department suddenly kept the crime rate a secret. Something very similar is happening in too many jurisdictions across the United States.

Police Pursuits kill an average of one person per day in the United States. That is a fact determined by the NHTSA. Pursuits also end in a collision approximately 33% of the time and injure thousands every year. If you notice I mentioned "approximately." There is not a requirement or standard for any police department to report on their police pursuits. In fact, many departments do not keep records of their pursuits and many others will never release the information they have to the public. As a citizen or police officer, you must ask yourself why this is and what are police departments scared of?

A recent poll taken by 130 individuals on www.pursuitwatch.org resulted in half of the respondents saying that there does not need to be a mandatory requirement to report police pursuits. This attitude is disturbing at best.

A professional police department will no doubt practice the art of self-assessment in many facets of their operation. Pursuits will be reviewed on a monthly basis and pertinent policy or legal issues will be immediately addressed to the officers and supervisors involved. Specific statistical data will be collected including the average speed and length of pursuits as well as the reason the pursuits were initiated. The collision and injury rate should be compiled as well as the percentage of pursuits that were terminated and the reasons why. The careful examination of this data will reveal if a department policy or practice needs to be addressed. For example: If the pursuits in the first quarter of the year averaged 50 mph with a 15% collision rate and suddenly jump to an average speed of 70 mph with a 30% collision rate in the second quarter, then something is not being done correctly. Without the compilation and analysis of pursuit data, an issue such as that can be addressed and corrected. This would not only result in a safer environment but likely could save lives or injuries to citizens of the community. Many police departments do an excellent job of monitoring and analyzing their pursuits. Unfortunately, many do not.

The faulty self-assessment of police departments is why each state should pass legislation requiring police departments to report specific data on their pursuits. If the states cannot get this done, the Federal Government must take the lead and do it. The mandatory reporting of pursuit data will not only make a department analyze themselves but it would also create a check and balance with the community and media. Faulty policies or training would be readily apparent if a certain jurisdiction is off the chart compared to most others. If the department failed to address this, then community leaders or the news media could address it for them. How many departments would balk at this idea? Well, half of the respondents on www.pursuitwatch.org did. A police department has nothing to be concerned with, unless they are not willing to ensure a safe approach to the policy and practice of police pursuits.

What can a citizen do if they agree with the reporting of police pursuits? If you have a pen and a phone, then you can help. Call and write your legislator. Ask your police chief if you can see the pursuit data. If he refuses, go to the television stations. If they will not help, write the editor of your local newspaper. Tell your friends and family your concern. Have them do what you have done. Why should you care and do this? Ask the families of the 300 plus victims a year that die as the result of a police pursuit.

What can a police administrator do if they agree with the reporting of police pursuits? YOU can ensure that your pursuits are tracked and analyzed. YOU can ensure there is an adequate policy in place to address pursuits. YOU can ensure that there is training in place to deal with issues that arise. YOU can ensure that discipline is quickly given to an officer / supervisor not following proper pursuit procedures. In short, YOU can dictate the attitude your department will have.

So what will it be…...Will you vote YES?…….. Or will you vote NO?

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Captain Travis Yates is a Team Leader with the Tulsa, Okla. Police Law Enforcement Driver Training Unit. He is a nationally recognized driving instructor and a certified instructor in tire deflation devices and the pursuit intervention technique. Capt. Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern State University. He moderates www.policedriving.com, a website dedicated to law enforcement driving issues.
In addition to his duties with the Police Driving Site, Yates also owns www.centexweb.net, a web hosting business dedicated to assisting law enforcement officers with hosting their websites. Contact Capt. Yates to hear about special police rates at: [email protected]
 
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