CHICO, CALIF., July 29, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PursuitSAFETY, the nation's sole non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the number of avoidable police pursuits, recently visited Washington, DC to request pursuit reduction technology funding through existing grant programs. An innocent family member of each PursuitSAFETY delegate was killed as the result of a police pursuit for a non-violent crime. Pursuits triggered when drivers unexpectedly fail to yield to traffic stops often turn minor offenses into felonies, when fleeing drivers crash into innocent bystanders causing injuries or death.
"Police pursuits exact a high toll in terms of deaths, injuries and damages—all bad outcomes that can be significantly reduced if law enforcement agencies are allowed to use Department of Justice (DOJ) grants for the purchase of innovative tools which allow officers to track, slow and capture fleeing drivers without conducting dangerous pursuits," said Jonathan Farris, Board Chairman of PursuitSAFETY. "The losses that we and thousands of American families have experienced could have been avoided if law enforcement officers had alternatives to engaging in high-speed pursuits."
The delegation from PursuitSAFETY visited the offices of four Senators who serve on the Judiciary Committee: John Cornyn (Texas), Diane Feinstein (California), Al Franken (Minnesota), and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota). The Judiciary Committee oversees the grant authority of bills for Department of Justice grant programs, including Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants. PursuitSAFETY also met with staff of Congressman Ray Lujan representing New Mexico's 3rd District.
Minnesota Senator Klobuchar has proposed a bill (S. 2254) to reauthorize the Department of Justice COPS grant. The grant encourages law enforcement to adopt procedures that earn "the trust of the community" while preventing rather than simply reacting to crime. One of the specified purposes of the grant is to promote "cutting-edge crime fighting technologies."
Technology that can help police apprehend suspects without a chase gives law enforcement a constructive alternative to high-risk pursuits. Examples of existing tools include tire deflation devices, mechanisms that allow officers to physically restrain cars before they flee, and GPS tracking systems. According to PursuitSAFETY, the definition of 'pursuit reduction technology' meets the goal of the COPS grant.
"Unfortunately, many local law enforcement agencies face declining budgets, hampering their willingness or ability to test and adopt new technologies," said Mr. Farris. "We hope Congress, by specifying pursuit reduction technology as an acceptable purpose area in existing grant programs, will encourage law enforcement to try new technology. As use of new technology grows, the private sector will produce more units and develop new products, thus bringing costs down."
These Congressional meetings were promising and all were receptive to PursuitSAFETY's request that "pursuit reduction technology" wording be added to existing grant programs. The bill re-authorizing COPS grants has not yet left the Senate Judiciary Committee, and PursuitSAFETY hopes wording to encourage funding of pursuit reduction technology will be inserted before it reaches the Senate floor. The organization has asked that a House companion bill (H.R. 421) include the same wording.
Police pursuits pose more danger to the law-abiding public than any other law enforcement tactic, while at the same time posing one of the greatest risks to police themselves. According to US data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of one person per day dies as a result of a police pursuit. At least one third of those killed are innocent bystanders. In addition, one law enforcement officer dies every six weeks as a result of a pursuit.
PursuitSAFETY advocates restricting police pursuits to situations when police must apprehend violent felons. Most suspects who flee do not pose an immediate threat to the public prior to the pursuit. Data collected by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and released in 2008 shows that the majority of police pursuits involve a stop for a misdemeanor traffic violation.
PursuitSAFETY is the only national nonprofit civilian organization working to reduce deaths and injuries of innocent bystanders and police officers as a result of vehicular police pursuit and response call crashes. We are working for a safer way through educational outreach to the public and to law enforcement and by uniting families of innocent victims.
Learn more at www.pursuitsafety.org.
CONTACT: Jonathan Farris Board Chairman 612.804.5868 (C)