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USA Today - Police Deaths in Chases are Vastly Understated

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November 30, 2015

According to Thomas Frank of USA Today, police deaths in chases are vastly understated, minimizing the dangers of vehicle pursuits, and giving police departments an incomplete picture when considering vehicle pursuit policy. Frank reaches that opinion based on an analysis of data from several public resources.

From 2005 to 2014, the USA Today article provides 12 California law enforcement officer deaths attributable to police chases. Taking a closer look at the State of California data brings to light some interesting information;

  • 2 of the 12 officers are unidentified. A search based on the information provided reveal a match on an officer who died in a collision en-route to a call for assistance. The other officer and event could not be found
  • 1 officer was attempting a traffic stop when he was rammed by another vehicle
  • 1 motorcycle officer was attempting to stop a speeding motorist when another car swerved into his lane
  • 1 district attorney investigator who was not involved in the pursuit and was not associated with the agency conducting the pursuit was struck while driving to work
  • 1 deputy was attempting to follow a hit and run suspect in his private vehicle when he crashed
  • 1 officer was struck while laying spike strips
  • 5 of the 12 officers were physically in pursuit of a suspect vehicle

The USA Today article is a good reminder that police pursuits can be dangerous, and that the risks involved in police chases may be minimized or reduced through data driven decision making.  It is also important that the data be specific, complete, and reliable to generate thoughtful pursuit policies that can help save lives.

This year, the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training's (POST) Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted in the Line of Duty (LEOKA) Committee welcomed new members that included
Situation-Appropriate, Focused, and Educated (SAFE) Emergency Vehicle Operator Course (EVOC) instructors and Motor Officer Training and Operations Review for Safety (MOTORS) trainers. The LEOKA Committee is conducting a 10 year survey on California deaths, including an analysis of pursuit related fatalities.  Expect to see results of this study in late 2016.

Read USA Today article.


Wear your seatbelt, watch your speed, and practice SAFE driving!

The SAFE Driving Campaign is a POST initiative focused on reducing fatal and serious injury law enforcement traffic collisions nationwide.  For further information regarding the SAFE Driving Campaign, visit the SAFE Driving Campaign on the POST Website or contact:

Janna Munk, POST Senior Consultant
Training Program Services Bureau
(916) 227-0473

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