Technological Solution for the Reduction of Police Pursuits: Implications for Increased Investment

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Ian Troxell

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The research presented herein is the result of efforts to integrate multiple categories of analysis into the formulation of a discussion platform concerning the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) funding efforts and the acquisition of pursuit management technology at the departmental level. This thesis recognizes the neglect of this issue in the academic literature to date. Rather than simply relying on a scholarly analysis of the issue, the critical evaluation expands the scope of analysis to integrate industry and government reports, as well as existing academic research, into a clear description of the conditions currently impacting the acquisition of pursuit management technology.
This thesis includes a literature review that directly addresses many of the concerns associated with “vehicular pursuit” in the traditional sense. Traditional vehicular pursuit practices have yielded many negative outcomes. To reduce the risks associated with traditional pursuit practices, both public and private interests have pursued development in new forms of pursuit management technology. Key to these management systems is the utilization of sophisticated technological approaches to reduce the danger officers are exposed to during a pursuit incident.
Traditional pursuits are a source of major cost for many departments throughout the United States. For example, a small department in Independence, MO recently became involved in a chase that led to the serious injury of multiple bystanders and the death of one bystander. A settlement was eventually reached with a payout of $767,500 to the victims of this specific pursuit incident. To offset costs associated with pursuit, some departments have created highly restrictive pursuit policies. Still, some departments have developed virtually no pursuit policies. The result is a highly mixed environment in which no single policy philosophy dominates the treatment of pursuit strategy. This study examines how pursuit policy and the acquisition of pursuit management technology may overlap in directly influencing the DOJ’s investment decisions. Namely, the variation in the policy environment within the United States may influence the DOJ to attempt to standardize pursuit practices through the implementation of new technology-based strategies.
To frame the concepts presented in the literature to allow for a confluence of ideas within the evaluation, a background analysis was developed. This historical examination of key factors impacting DOJ investment and departmental utilization of technology is offered as a supplementary discussion for the evaluation presented within the critical analysis. A full description of the critical evaluation process is also offered in this research, with a focus on allowing for ease of replication.
Due to the limited source material relevant to the issue at hand, the evaluation focuses on more comprehensive studies. The goal is to emphasize the quality of the material analyzed rather than the quantity. Accordingly, many of the sources analyzed are taken directly from DOJ research reports and projects. These comprehensive reports are supplemented with a scholarly analysis in the key areas of departmental and DOJ policy identified in the literature review.
The systematic analysis presented contributes to the development of key policy prescriptions. These policy prescriptions are offered as general guidelines for the alignment of DOJ funding and department pursuit policy with the body of research examined in this study. The purpose of the study is not to craft a specific policy for immediate adoption, but to identify a general policy trend that may be embraced to ensure the long-term efficacy of the DOJ’s funding of pursuit management programs at the state, local, and tribal level.
The findings in this study show that the DOJ and certain departments have identified pursuit management technology as an effective means of improving pursuit practices and mitigating risk. The reconsideration of traditional pursuit strategy as both a financial and safety threat must inform efforts to improve the community profile of departments throughout the United States. The DOJ has found great success in the promotion of crime prevention and policing improvement programs through the organization’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office and other affiliate organizations. Through such organizations, the DOJ will be able to promote the adoption of pursuit management technology throughout the United States. The COPS Office could achieve this adoption through additional funding, as well as the direct promotion of technology investment.

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