Resources

Please feel free to peruse the information contained on this page. We hope that it will help you to understand some of the issues, complications and outcomes associated with police pursuits

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They are the ultimate reality program, life and death, live and in living color. The Police Pursuit-from COPS to The Scariest Police Chases to live broadcasts- a heart thumping, adrenaline pumping high-stakes game of cat and mouse where the loser, or innocents, may pay the supreme price. In many American cities beepers sound to warn of a pursuit in progress. The voyeuristic thrill of the chase is addictive and America cannot get enough.

 

What is ignored by the public, as well as the breathless reporters hanging from the doors of helicopters or ex-cop narrators spouting endless streams of law and order cliches is that the drama being played out before them is deadly serious. Hundreds of people die, thousands of people are injured and millions, upon millions, of dollars worth of property damage occur, and liability insurance rates soar for police departments.

Since the 1980s, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has been at the forefront of policy reform in the area of police vehicular pursuits. Notably, Geoffrey Alpert, one of the leading researchers of police pursuits, described the IACP’s creation of its Vehicular Pursuit Model Policy as a “significant reform” in this area of police managerial policy . At the same time, Alpert emphasized that more efforts were needed, highlighting the lack of nation-wide, multijurisdictional data and information collection systems about vehicular pursuits to better inform pursuit policies.

Following that report, the National Institute of Justice’s Office of Science and Technology formed the Pursuit Management Task Force (PMTF) to further examine police pursuits. Among the PMTF’s many recommendations,it suggested that law enforcement agencies needed “a national model for collection of pursuit statistics...perhaps through the IACP or similar professional law enforcement organization, for the purpose of encouraging and facilitating research and to expand the body of knowledge relating to pursuits” .

The Michelle Norton Story

On July 8, 1998, at approximately 9:45 PM., John Norton (18) was driving home with his brother Matthew (15), and their mother, Michelle. They were traveling westbound along Rte 302, a two-lane highway in Raymond, Maine.

 

At the same time, 4 miles away, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Deputy Deborah Hall was dispatched to a residence “For a 6-yr old, attention disorder, out of control.”

 

Deputy Hall, also traveling westbound along Rte. 302, approached a line of westbound vehicles from behind, led by the Norton vehicle.

 

With his turn signal activated, John started his left-hand turn onto the lane leading to their home. Deputy Hall moved into the oncoming traffic lane to pass the cars behind the Norton’s.

 She struck the Norton vehicle broadside. Her cruiser traveled 114 feet post-impact, coming to rest in the ditch on the westbound side of the road. The Norton vehicle traveled 122 feet post-impact, coming to rest facing east in the eastbound ditch.

 

John died at the scene, Matthew died several hours later in the hospital. Deputy Hall suffered a broken hand. Michelle Norton’s physical injuries were insignificant.

 

Maine State Police conducted the investigation and found Deputy Hall to be at fault due to excess speed, calculated at 86 mph, and driver distraction, as she was reaching down to turn off her siren and use her mike.

 

The speed of the Norton vehicle was 21 mph.The speed limit at the site of the crash was 55 mph. 500 feet prior to that, the speed limit had been 35 mph for 1-1/2 miles.

 

Deputy Hall’s emergency lights were activated but her siren was not activated just prior to the crash, nor during any of her radio transmissions.