Let’s Find A Way To Disable Cars

Let’s Find A Way To Disable Cars

In 1969 America developed the technology to put a man on the moon. Yet in 2017 we still can’t figure out how to turn off a vehicle that police are pursuing. It can’t be that hard to figure out.

When I received the text message that Albuquerque police were in pursuit of an RV and it was heading north on Coors I jumped into my car to see if I could get a picture as it went by. Little did I know I was going to witness its tragic end.

As I turned on Westside Drive from Eagle Ranch, right in front of me were a handful of APD officers walking a handcuffed man. In the distance, I could see the RV, police cars and other vehicles mangled and damaged, the ugly end to the pursuit. I snapped the picture.

The RV chase had taken a considerable amount of time and had stretched across Albuquerque. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Police have chased vehicles, large and small, unable to stop them, for years now. Probably ever since Mr. Ford rolled his first one off the assembly line.

In 1991 a chase with a stolen dump truck ended in the deaths of two innocent people.

Prior to my retirement, APD chased a dump truck around Albuquerque and it only ended when State Police shot at it, forcing the driver to flip off the road by I-40 and Carnuel. Just a few years ago we had a stolen school bus that was pursued into Albuquerque, another chase that ended in gunfire.

What should police officers do? Not chase? But what if the driver is so reckless as to put other lives at risk? Doesn’t that rise to the level of deadly force to stop him?

The RV struck several vehicles during the pursuit and reports had it driving northbound in the southbound lanes of Coors before it crashed. I certainly believe deadly force is authorized to stop a maniac like this, but what does deadly force mean in this situation? Shooting at a vehicle has little chance to stop it and if you hit the driver, now you have an out-of-control vehicle.

How about a fleeing violent felon? Does allowing them to escape put the community at risk? Do we allow a violent felon to escape just because they are refusing to stop? There must be a better way.

Currently there is no easy answer. The cop on the beat is going to be damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In 1969 America developed the technology to put a man on the moon. Yet in 2017 we still can’t figure out how to turn off a vehicle that police are pursuing. It can’t be that hard to figure out.

Law enforcement has very few new tools, and some of those don’t work well. Our firearms are better, but only because the military developed them. We still use nightsticks, just like we did over a hundred years ago. We have pepper spray, another gift from the military dating back decades.

Taser weapons are a newer technology, but their use may cause more injuries than prevent them. Taser is a company that knows how to sell itself, but that is not the best fit for police and communities.

Police have spike strips, to disable vehicles, but the danger to officers tossing them in front of a high-speed vehicle has resulted in several officer deaths. Officers lives matter just as much as citizens; there must be a better way.

Law enforcement must be brought into the 21st century. This can be done if the Department of Justice creates its own NASA-type program, bringing scientists and police together so they can develop tools specific to law enforcement.

Yes, I know, it’s a government program, not the private sector. The private sector, Taser, has shown us that they are in it for the money and they buy off police chiefs to get business. For them it’s not about what is best for cops and communities, it’s about the profit margin. That is why government must take the lead.

By having the DOJ in charge we can get past making money and instead put forth a product that gives the beat cop a good tool. Imagine an officer pointing a radar type gun at a stolen car and sending out an electric burst that disables only that car.

And if the DOJ doesn’t want to take this on, how about the New Mexico Department of Public Safety teaming up with Los Alamos and Sandia scientists? New Mexico could be the leader in this new technology, but do the people in charge have the courage to act?

It’s time to bring American law enforcement into the 21st century. The government needs a mandate to produce new technology that allows officers perform their jobs in a manner that creates safety for them and the public. If we can send a spacecraft to Mars we can make police work safer. Demand it!

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Dan Klein

Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him via Facebook and Twitter via @dankleinabq.

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