Hi-speed pursuit of criminals by police has long been a controversial subject. Although Hollywood glorifies the high-speed chase as exciting and entertaining, most police will state that such pursuits are anything but. Sure, there is excitement, but that excitement is nullified by the danger involved.
High-Speed Pursuit and Law Enforcement
In fact, according to RealPolice.net, law enforcement officers struggle with the idea of giving pursuit in such situations. This is because many such high-speed chases result in fatalities. On average, one-third of these are to innocent 3rd parties. In other words, one day you are driving home from work when you find yourself in the crosshairs of a high-speed pursuit–your family never sees you again.
The FBI conducted a study and found that for every 100 high-speed pursuits, one fataility occurred. Some may find this figure acceptable, but when we divide it according to the rates of innocent bystander deaths, it becomes 1 in 300. So, on innocent person dies as the result of every 300 high-speed chases. Is that figure acceptable? Not likely, if the innocent persons are your wife and child out for a stroll.
Put in another perspective, the Washington Post tallied the body counts and found that Police chases kill more people each year than floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning — combined.
It is safe to say that most police officers do not want the chase to end with the death of a civilian. Rather, their goal is simply to apprehend the fleeing suspect. That is their job. Yet, they do not want a Phyrric Victory. Police officers never want to see innocent persons slain, especially when the loss of life could have been prevented.
The Effectiveness of High-Speed Pursuit in Law Enforcement
Of course, if one were to view high-speed chases by police through the prissm of Hollywood, one might get the impression that at least these pursuits net the bad guys. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Vocativ reported on a 2008 study conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. In that study, it was determined that 37.5% of all chases end without a suspect in custody.
The IACP study discussed such topics as
- Empirical Studies of Police Pursuits
- The Need for Evidence-Based Pursuit Policies
- Police Pursuits in an Age of Innovation and Reform
- Recommendations for Police Agencies
It is worth noting that the IACP study took into account the need for police agencies to collect detailed data on all police chases. The goal of the data is to make informed, rather than gut, choices about policies regarding high-speed chases.
Given that for the course of the last few decades empirical research has not supported many law enforcement policies, this is a clear step in the right direction. This is especially so in regard to high-speed pursuits. In fact, as reported by Popular Mechanics in 2013, most high-speed pursuits do not involve dangerous criminals. Instead,
“They are usually 20-something males with bad driving records.”
For this reason, most law enforcement agencies are now restricting such chases to wanted felons and situations involving clear and present danger to the public. As Popular Mechanic noted, High-Speed Police Chases Are Going Away.
Law Enforcement High Speed Pursuit and Technology
Law enforcement today has far more advantages over their counterparts of just 20 years ago. It is no different in the case of high-speed chases.
For instance, cellular technology permits real time communications over immense distances. This allows police to fairly corral fleeing suspects, blocking paths to force them in the desired direction–ideally, away from the general public. Once they have the suspect heading the direction they want, they can then deploy a variety of tactics to stop the fleeing vehicle. Most have seen the spikes across the road meant to pop the tires depicted in movies.
Yet, there are other technologies both already developed and in development to help stop fleeing suspects before the loss of innocent lives.
PoliceOne reported on a Vehicle-mounted device disables car electronics at 50 meters (165 feet). The unit uses microwave technology to disrupt the vehicle electronics. Because all modern cars and trucks can only operate using a variety of electronics, disabling these will instantly stall the fleeing vehicle.
CBN reported on a unit called Star Chase. This device is a GPS tracking device which can be deployed onto a suspect vehicle. It is designed such that the fleeing suspect will not know it has been attached. Police can then leave off the high-speed pursuit and track the suspect safely, making an arrest later when the vehicle stops. In 2012, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) became the first law enforcement agency in the United States to test/use the device.
The Coolest New Technology for Stopping High-Speed Pursuit of Suspects
Because of the immense danger to the public, the National Institute of Justice, a division of the U.S. Office of Justice Programs is investing in many new technologies to reduce high-speed chases by police.
However, one of the coolest technologies developed for stopping fleeing suspects during high-speed pursuits is the Lasso for Cop Cars. As can be seen in the following video from ViralTread, the lasso for cop cars works much as a lasso for cowboys of old. That makes it cool.
How Realistic is the Lasso for Cop Cars in Stopping High-Speed Chases?
The proper name for this device is The Grappler. As can be seen in the video, the unit folds up on the front of the Police Vehicle and drops in place when deployed. The pursuing officer then simply pulls up close behind the fleeing suspect car and lets the Grappler do its job.
Not only does the grappler wrap the tire much as tire chains would, but more importantly, it punctures the tire at the same time. Of course, this requires that the pursuing officer pull close to the suspect vehicle.
So there are some important drawbacks to this technology.
The first drawback is small. The strap portion of the unit will be useless once deployed. Thus, replacement parts will be a major cost of owning and using the Grappler. However, given its simplicity, the device is much less costly than some of the other current technologies.
Another drawback is that in most cases, police departments restrict high-speed pursuits to dangerous suspects. Such criminal elements may have no difficulty slamming on the brakes at the optimal moment. Such a move may still result in capture of the suspect, but no always. Yet, in nearly every instance whereby a suspect takes this route, the officer inside the pursuit vehical may well be killed. Thus, good training will need to be a part of using this device. Even then, using it will be very dangerous for the officer deploying the unit. Time will tell just how dangerous it will be.
The last drawback is that the pursuit vehicle will need to get the unit directly under the rear tire. Although this may look easy in the video, a fleeing suspect is not likely to continue driving straight once he sees the device deployed. It is likely not as easy as it seems.
Still, The Grappler, the Lasso for Cop Cars is one of the coolest new devices for stopping high speed chases by police on the market today.
Whether the Grappler will catch on remains to be seen. Regardless of the case, law enforcement around the world are paying attention to these new technologies. At CriminalJusticeLaw.org we are paying attention as well. Thanks to devices such as this, the future of criminal apprehension is here.