Police chase alternatives exist, so why don't SoCal agencies use them?
LOS ANGELES - Over the last few months, Southern California has seen several police chases end in fatal crashes. In February, a pursuit in Lynwood ended when the suspect's car plowed into a car with a married couple heading home from a quinceañera, killing the couple and the passenger in the suspect's car. Days earlier, a group of friends on the way home from getting tacos were killed when a pursuit suspect hit their car in Panorama City.
Those chases and their outcomes saw people calling for a change in how law enfocement handle police chases. Law enforcement has even acknowledged the danger and difficulty of pursuits, and how they try to minimize the risk for everyone involved.
Michel Moore, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, has called pursuits, "one of the most dangerous things that we are engaged in."
"It's a balancing act," Moore said. "We look forward to working with any whether it be academia or industry or vendors that have emerging technologies that they think may prove helpful."
But many technologies already exist as alternatives to potentially deadly police chases, some of which are used across the U.S.
Manny Argonmaniz is the CEO of Stop Technologies, which has developed a device, a receiver that can be mounted under a car's dashboard that can allow law enforcement to disable a vehicle remotely.
"The important part of this feature is that you don't lose any steering, and you don't lose any breaking," Argomaniz said.
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The device can be activated via an app, and cuts off the fuel flow, slowing the car as if it ran out of gas.
"In order for this to be very effective we have to mass produce it. Every new vehicle has to have this kind of technology in order for it to be successful," Argomaniz said. "And we understand it's going to be an uphill battle."
Another alternative is a device called Starchase. A stick-on GPS tracker launched from a patrol car onto a pursuit suspect's vehicle. The vehicle that's hit can be tracked remotely. Trevor Fishbach with Starchase said the device is currently being used in 30 states. The Oakland Police Department also uses the technology, but no major Southern California agencies, nor the CHP do.
"It really puts another tool on law enforcement's tool belt to be able to deescalate before moving into that continuum into a higher risk scenario which would be the pursuit," said Fishbach "It's a shift in philosophy in how to manage these situations."
In neighboring Arizona, the highway patrol is one of several agencies using a device called the Grappler Police Bumper, which launches a net at the rear wheel of a pursuit suspect's vehicle.
The CHP declined FOX 11's multiple requests for interviews on pursuit alternatives, but rather recommended filing a public record's request into research done by the agency into new technologies. Other agencies have tested new devices in the past but wouldn't go into detail.
For the LASD, at least, implementing new tech comes down to three things — reliability, safety, and cost.
"If the technology was there and it were reliable and safe, then yes," said Deputy Mike Miller on whether the department would consider using new tech. "BUt its getting the testing done, it's getting them to us to be able to use them, then the legal aspects and all that stuff that we have to worry about. And then cost. Cost is a big one. We're taxpayer funded."
So for now pursuits will continue, carefully, cautiously, but also dangerously and potentially deadly.