This entry is written in tribute to a little known non-profit association called Voices Insisting On Pursuit Safety. http://www.pursuitsafety.org/ VIPS is a group of dedicated volunteers who are trying to save lives through their work. Each of the members of this group unfortunately have experienced tragedies in their own lives typically as a result of a police pursuit gone bad. The board members of Voices Insisting On Pursuit Safety are those who have lost loved ones in tragic police pursuits where there was a reckless disregard of proper police procedure in the decision to either initiate the pursuit and/or recklessly continue the same in the face of dangerous circumstances, resulting in the death of an innocent family member caught up by happenstance in the chase. Their family members were innocent victims who just happened to be at the wrong place and the wrong time.
It is a little known fact that three innocent people per week die during high speed pursuits. This is far more than are shot with police firearms. Indeed, police pursuits are the most dangerous activity engaged in by law enforcement. When the police chase a murderer or rapist, then they are doing their job in trying to apprehend a dangerous suspect that poses a danger to all members of the public. Proper police procedure requires that the police chase such suspects because the risk to the public is great if they are not immediately apprehended. The analysis completely is different, however, when dealing with those who are suspected of having committed non-violent misdemeanors or mere traffic violations. To chase such suspects at speeds in excess of 90 or 100 miles an hour in an urban setting makes no sense because in such pursuits it is foreseeable that an innocent member of the motoring public could be seriously injured or killed. Indeed, data collected on a yearly basis proves that over 500 people per year are killed in this country during dangerous police pursuits.
Over the ten (10) years of the war in Afghanistan our country has lost three thousand (3,000) soldiers. Five thousand (5,000) people have been killed over the last ten (10) years in dangerous police pursuits. Once every eleven (11) weeks a police officer is killed, not to mention the three (3) innocent people per week on average killed during police pursuits. VIPS laments the loss of innocent life, including law enforcement officers whose work it greatly values, and hopes through its work to save innocent lives (including those of law enforcement) through public educational outreach.
The typical case that Voices Insisting On Pursuit Safety tries to address is the case where the police are pursuing a non-violent suspect under extremely dangerous circumstances. If the police are pursuing a traffic violator or some alleged misdemeanor violator (such as a shoplifter) in an urban area at speeds greatly in excess of the posted limit, it is foreseeable that an innocent person simply at the wrong place at the wrong time could be crashed into either by the fleeing suspect’s vehicle or the police. This happens all too often with the result that five hundred (500) people per year are killed in this country (on average) during high speed pursuits. Finally one-third (1/3) of these, on a conservative estimate, are completely innocent, unconnected to the chase. Others in this number are police officers involved in the chase. They die chasing non-violent suspects. The price is too great to them and to other innocent third parties.
Voices Insisting On Pursuit Safety is on a mission to save lives. They do not wish for pursuits to completely stop, they wish for pursuits to be governed under proper police procedure. History and experience has taught that if the police engage in a high speed pursuit, a dangerous situation can occur quickly, which exposes all members of the public to the risk of serious injury or death. Thus, the mission of Voices Insisting On Pursuit Safety is to try to get the police to follow their own procedures and to terminate dangerous pursuits where the risk to the public is far greater than the risk posed by the non-violent suspect being pursued.
As stated, most all of the board members of Voices Insisting on Pursuit Safety have lost a loved one who was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Typically, the fleeing suspect who created the scenario crashes into the innocent member of the public killing or maiming them. Obviously, fleeing suspects are to blame for these occurrences, however, the police must also be held accountable and must observe proper police procedure when engaging in pursuits involving non-violent suspects. In any pursuit involving a non-violent suspect, if the danger to the public exceeds the danger to the public caused by the non-violent suspect, the pursuit should be terminated in the exercise of proper police procedure. Voices Insisting On Pursuit Safety simply advocates that proper police procedure must be followed and that there must be accountability in those cases where proper police pursuit policy is not followed. Absent accountability more innocent people can be injured and/or killed.
The volunteers at Voices Insisting On Pursuit Safety volunteer their time, efforts and talents in trying to promote public safety awareness in the context of dangerous high speed pursuits. They are literally trying to save lives by getting their message out, that being essentially that all pursuits are dangerous and therefore should only be engaged in when necessary for the public safety. VIPS has no constituency because their constituents are future victims. Most members of the public have no idea just how dangerous these pursuits are. Most members of the public would be astounded to know that more people have been killed during police pursuits over the last ten (10) years than have the number of troops killed during the war in Afghanistan. This is an astounding fact, little appreciated by the public, which happens to be true. It also happens to be true that a large number of those killed during these pursuits are totally innocent, having nothing to do with the chase, simply being crashed into during the pursuit while they were lawfully abiding their own business simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Such tragedies are hard enough to bear for any family but are particularly hard to accept when it is recognized that their loved one was killed as a result of a pursuit over a non-violent offense, where it was not truly necessary in the interest of public safety to immediately apprehend the suspected offender.
Our firm salutes the work of the volunteers of Voices Insisting On Pursuit Safety and congratulates them for their tireless and selfless efforts on behalf of all of us. These people are heroes. They have lost children and spouses in these pursuits and do not want other families to suffer as they have. They work without pay or recognition dedicated to their pursuit, adherence to proper police procedure and the promotion of public safety. Education of the public and the law enforcement community is the key. The greater the awareness of the dangers, the greater the awareness for safer alternatives to these dangerous pursuits. There are safer alternatives to pursuits – use of the radio and other police tactics. Since most criminals are apprehended based on good old fashion police work (checking out tag information as an example) it is truly not necessary to immediately apprehend a non-violent suspect under dangerous circumstances. Apprehensions can be made later, under safer circumstances, and if an occasional non-violent offender escapes, is this not better than the loss of innocent life?
If you go to the VIPS website, whose link is attached hereto, you will see some of the faces of those innocent third parties who have been killed during high speed pursuits in this country. These faces dramatically and poignantly illustrate, time and again, that each and everyone of us are endangered by high speed pursuits and that any one of us could be killed any day at any place at any time simply because we were in the area of a high speed pursuit. The hope is that when the police engage in a high speed pursuit, they will do so only when it is absolutely necessary for the public safety and will not do so when it is not absolutely necessary for the public safety.