As far as the review of the policy, I want to make one thing very clear: I have no intention of prohibiting my officers from using every reasonable means available to apprehend auto thieves. This has historically been a crime that has victimized many of our residents, and I believe I echo the community's concerns when I say that our police department should not have a standing policy that prohibits intervention and lets these criminals get away scott free.
The current rules allow pursuits to be INITIATED when an officer has reason to believe the driver of a vehicle has committed a forcible felony, which includes the offense of burglary. The suspect must ALSO exhibit conduct which indicates he or she is an immediate or continuous threat to public safety. The pursuit may be allowed to CONTINUE based on constant review of road & traffic conditions, speed, additional violations, and many other factors. At any point, a supervisor may order that a pursuit be terminated.
Other aspects of the policy may very well be subject to revision. For example, I will likely be adding a component that requires pursuing officers to take into consideration their lack of familiarity with a neighborhood in deciding whether or not to continue a pursuit. I will also be talking with other local agencies to discuss improvement of procedures for interagency operations when pursuits cross into other jurisdictions.
The pursuit review noted four minor violations of agency policy. This is not out of the ordinary. A pursuit is a highly-stressful and rapidly-changing situation that is subject to many and various detailed procedures. It is rare that a pursuit review indicates no violations at all. In this case, despite the minor violations, I believe the officers did a commendable job.
Text of the pursuit review report follows:
GULFPORT POLICE DEPARTMENT
From: Chief Vincent
Re: Pursuit Review (GP12-13323)
Written Directive 104-A requires an administrative review of all pursuits for the purpose of identifying any violations of policy. This document is my review of a pursuit that occurred on the evening of 7/9/12. Note—pursuit reviews are normally conducted by the operations commander; since Lt. Stone was actively involved in the pursuit, I am doing it to avoid any conflict of interest.
On 7/9/12, Officer Kellington identified a stolen vehicle and initiated a traffic stop in the area of Gulfport Blvd. and 51st Street. The driver of the vehicle (later apprehended and identified as Derrick Mims) accelerated and took evasive action. Officer Kellington initiated a pursuit that was joined by Officer Iwanowski, Officer Cavanah, and Lieutenant Stone. The pursuit left the city of Gulfport at 11th Avenue and 49th Street South and then remained in the City of St. Petersburg until it ended in a crash approximately 15 minutes later. At one point, Officer Iwanowski took the lead in the pursuit, and they lost sight of the suspect vehicle shortly after. Officer Cavanah then immediately acquired the vehicle and re-initiated the pursuit. The vehicle entered the interstate at 5th Avenue North and I-375, then it merged onto I-275 before exiting at the 28th Street South exit. Upon approaching the Jordan Park neighborhood, the vehicle crashed into a southbound PSTA bus at the intersection of 11th Avenue South and 25th Street. Mims was not seriously injured; one unidentified passenger fled from the scene; the front-seat passenger was seriously injured; and a male toddler was discovered in the vehicle, also apparently uninjured. The PSTA bus left the roadway following the crash and struck an apartment building on the southeast corner. The building was unoccupied at the time. One occupant of the bus was transported to the hospital for possible injuries. St. Petersburg Police will be completing the traffic crash investigation and report.
Police department written directive 104-A regulates pursuits. The following is a list of required actions (in italics), followed by my conclusion for each action.
- Only sworn personnel may be involved in the pursuit:
The following personnel were involved in the pursuit; all are sworn officers and none had passengers in their vehicles:
Officer Jesse Kellington, Officer Eva Iwanowski, Officer David Cavanah, Lt. Joshua Stone
- Officer has reasonable grounds to believe suspect committed a forcible felony AND either imminent or continued threat to the public:
The officers’ pursuit was based on evidence that the driver committed at least one (likely more) forcible felony and that his driving behavior constituted an imminent threat to public safety. The conditions warranted a pursuit in accordance with this provision of the policy.
- Only primary and up to two officers to be engaged in active pursuit unless directed by a supervisor; vehicle will maintain a safe following distance:
Officer Kellington was initially the primary pursuit unit, and he was followed at safe distances by Officer Cavanah, and Lieutenant Stone. Later, Officer Iwanowski joined the pursuit, increasing the number of actively-involved units to four. Officer Iwanowski should not have become actively involved, but upon seeing that she did so, Lieutenant Stone, who was driving an unmarked vehicle that is not intended by its manufacturer for use in police pursuits, should have relinquished his involvement to her.
- No units not involved in the pursuit will leave area of assigned responsibility unless directed to do so by a supervisor:
Only those units involved in the pursuit left their assigned areas of responsibility.
- Initiating Officer to inform dispatch that a pursuit is taking place and to provide dispatch with vehicle license plate, description, direction of travel:
Officer Kellington immediately notified dispatch that he was in pursuit, and he provided all of the required information.
- Primary officer to continuously monitor and evaluate road & traffic conditions, speed, weather:
See notes under #13 below.
- Officer to develop and implement a plan to terminate the pursuit
- PIT only by officers trained to do so
- Roadblocks are prohibited
Approximately two minutes into the pursuit, Officer Kellington indicated his intent to attempt a PIT maneuver. This was unsuccessful. Approximately two minutes later, when it was clear the suspect vehicle was pulling away from him, Officer Kellington requested air support. Approximately two minutes later, a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy indicated he would be setting a spike strip in the path of the pursuit. The suspect vehicle turned prior to this point, however. There was never an opportunity to set up a box-in. It was clear that the plan was to arrange visual contact by air support and then terminate the pursuit, but the helicopter did not establish contact before the suspect vehicle crashed.
- Police vehicle to have lights and siren activated continuously
All police vehicles continuously had lights and sirens activated during the pursuit.
- Unmarked vehicle to relinquish to marked vehicle
At one point during the pursuit, Officer Iwanowski passed Officer Kellington and took the lead role while Kellington slowed for traffic congestion. She maintained this role until losing sight of the suspect vehicle and did not relinquish the lead position despite the fact that she was operating an unmarked patrol car.
- Officer may not pursue the wrong way on a divided roadway
Neither the suspect vehicle nor any of the pursuing vehicles ever drove the wrong way on a divided highway.
- Officer to continuously update communications center of the progress of the pursuit
Officer Kellington provided continuous updates regarding speed, direction of travel, road and traffic conditions, etc.
When Officer Cavanah re-initiated the pursuit, he also continuously provided updated information.
- Officer must abandon pursuit under any of the following:
- When ordered to do so by a supervisor
- Upon losing visual contact with the violator
- Upon losing radio contact with the communications center
- When the threat to public safety no longer exists
Officers Iwanowski and Kellington abandoned their pursuit upon losing visual contact with the violator. Officer Cavanah never lost sight of the vehicle once he re-initiated the pursuit. None of the other circumstances occurred during this pursuit.
- Officer to give strong consideration to abandoning pursuit under any of the following:
- Pursuit enters congested area and creates unreasonable hazard to the public
- Visibility, road, or weather conditions limit the probability of a safe and successful conclusion to the pursuit.
- The violator can be identified to the point that later apprehension can be made
- Aircraft has visual contact with the violator
Items B-C were never factors in this pursuit. There were three points at which it is evident the pursuit entered a congested area where abandonment may have been considered. However, the pursuit went through these areas and back into uncongested areas each time. The brevity of these instances was such that the increased risk was over before abandonment could have occurred.
The first point at which abandonment would have been appropriate was when the suspect vehicle approached the Jordan Park housing complex. However, the fleeing vehicle crashed BEFORE it entered the complex, and there was insufficient time for Officer Cavanah to recognize and evaluate the conditions. It should be noted that he is not familiar with that neighborhood and was unaware that the route of the fleeing vehicle was leading to the housing complex.
- All officers to continuously operate vehicles in a safe and prudent manner:
Evidence indicates Officer Iwanowski was at one point travelling at 100 miles per hour on 1st Avenue South and near 28th Street North. The posted speed limit is 40 miles per hour. At this point, she was trying to catch up to the pursuit that already had Officer Kellington, Officer Cavanah, and Lieutenant Stone actively involved. Such speed was not justified in consideration of the fact that there were already three officers (maximum allowed under the policy) in active pursuit.
It should be noted that, although not justified, Officer Iwanowski’s speed at this point did not in itself constitute unsafe driving. Firs Avenue is a multi-lane, one-way street with timed signals and clear visibility. Traffic at the time was not congested.
At all other points during the pursuit, officers operated their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner.
- Officer must complete a pursuit form and a report before the end of the tour of duty
The pursuit form and reports from all officers involved were submitted in a timely manner.
- Patrol supervisor decides whether pursuit should remain on primary channel or switch to alternate channel
The decision was made to keep the channel on Patrol-1 and restrict that channel to the units involved in the pursuit.
- Supervisor to assume command of and constantly evaluate pursuit and maintain communication with pursuing officer(s):
There was some confusion as to who had responsibility for command. Sgt. Farrand was in charge of the patrol squad and is Officer Kellington’s immediate supervisor. However, since Lt. Stone was on duty and actively involved in the pursuit, she was of the opinion he was assuming command. This confusion actually had no bearing on the pursuit, as both supervisors indicated they continuously monitored the conditions and felt no reason to order the pursuit terminated.
- Supervisor to verify proper number of officers involved in the pursuit, proper radio frequency used, affected jurisdictions notified:
See notes on #3 above.
- Supervisor to respond to the scene of termination of pursuit if injuries result:
The pursuit ended in a crash that resulted in injuries. Both Lt. Stone and Sgt. Farrand responded to the scene.
- Notify on-call lieutenant, dependant on time of day, if pursuit leaves the city of Gulfport
Lt. Stone was involved in the pursuit, and he did contact me (Chief Vincent) at the conclusion of the pursuit.
- The supervisor shall complete a report and forward to division commander:
Lt. Stone’s report was completed and submitted in a timely manner.
My review consisted of the following actions:
- I observed the video from the police cruisers involved in the pursuit (evidence).
- I reviewed and obtained copies of the relevant offense report.
- I reviewed and obtained a copy of the radio transmissions (evidence).
- I reviewed GPS records for vehicles involved in the pursuit.
Based on the above determinations, I have determined that the following violations of policy occurred during this pursuit:
Written Directive 104-A.10—regarding the requirement for officers operating unmarked vehicles to relinquish close pursuit as soon as possible.
Written Directive 104.10—regarding the requirement to operate police vehicles with due regard for the safety of all persons (noting the unjustified speed on 1st Avenue South)
Written Directive 104-A.113—regarding the limitations on units actively involved in a pursuit. Lieutenant Stone should have either terminated his own involvement (preferable since he was operating an unmarked, non-pursuit vehicle) or ordered another officer to terminate involvement.
Written Directive 104-A.10(B)—regarding the prohibition of using vehicles not marketed by their manufacturer for use in pursuits. Lt. Stone was driving a Ford Fusion administrative vehicle which is not designed or intended for use in pursuit driving conditions.
Despite the minor violations noted, the overall performance of the officers in this pursuit was commendable. They exhibited excellent teamwork, good communications skills, and they operated their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner as they made every effort to apprehend a dangerous felon. At the conclusion of the pursuit, they acted appropriately to secure suspects and get medical attention for the injured while coordinating with other agencies for crowd control.
With the exception of the unjustified speeds in the case of Officer Iwanowski (which will result in a notice of counseling), the corrective action regarding the noted violations will be in the form of training that takes place during an after-action discussion that I will personally facilitate.
I also noted during this review that the GPS device in Officer Cavanah’s vehicle was apparently not working during the pursuit. This vehicle (#102) is not normally assigned to him, and he had reported to Sergeant Farrand upon learning that the GPS was not working. I have asked Lieutenant Stone to develop better procedures for more quickly identifying and correcting faulty technology in patrol vehicles. His recommendations are due by 7/30/12.