Redmond’s new police tech working in tandem with WA pursuit laws

Feb 6, 2023, 4:15 PM | Updated: Feb 7, 2023, 9:20 am

police pursuit...

Around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Washington state House passed an amended version of the state Senate's police pursuit bill. (Photo By Ryan McFadden/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

(Photo By Ryan McFadden/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

The Redmond Police Department (RPD) has introduced a new GPS-monitoring technology to help track and locate criminals attempting to flee a crime scene in an attempt to comply with Washington state’s reworked pursuit laws.

“Currently, the RPD has strategically deployed, in our vehicles throughout the city, a technology device called StarChase,” Redmond Police Chief Darrell Lowe told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “StarChase allows us, or allows an officer, to tag a vehicle and then back off. We virtually monitor the speed, the direction, the location of the vehicle, and when that vehicle comes to a stop, we are then able to safely approach and take the suspect into custody.”

Both the Washington state Senate and House have sponsored bills this year that seek to roll back House Bill 1054 — a bill that limits officers from pursuing a vehicle unless said officer has probable cause.

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HB 1054 also limits the use of tear gas and bans the use of chokeholds and neck restraints. It was passed and signed into law in 2021.

Now, RPD is potentially deploying new technology to work around this new state restriction.

“It’s left up to the officer’s discretion,” Lowe said, responding to how close officers need to get to deploy the device. “We went live with the technology in January. We’ve had several deployments thus far, and the early data in the early deployments suggest that it is a viable tool for continued use.”

Laws altering police pursuits sprang up due to reports that pursuits increase the likelihood of fatal incidents, including two involving Customs and Border Protection. A crash occurred during a police pursuit in southern New Mexico last month, killing two people and injuring eight others.

According to Customs and Border Patrol, a driver in one of the recent crashes sped away and lost control within seconds after an agent turned on his emergency lights.

Pursuits are involved in 23% of the incidents where someone is killed by police, according to a report “Police Pursuits and Fatalities in WA Since 2015.”

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StarChase, headquartered in Virginia Beach, Va., became the compromised solution for the police department based in St. Anne, Mo. After a police pursuit left a 55-year-old driver permanently disabled in 2017, the police department and the city came to an agreement to ban high-speed pursuits for traffic infractions and minor, nonviolent crimes.

Following the decision and the ensuing inclusion of StarChase technology — which took effect in January 2019 — the number of police pursuits annually increased slightly, but crashes dropped from 25 in 2018 (with eight injuries) to 10 in 2021 (with three injuries), according to data provided by the department.

St. Anne Police Department’s motto before the 2017 accident: “St. Ann will chase you until the wheels fall off.”

“This technology has a broader application than what the current pursuit laws allow right now. Given the restrictive nature of the pursuit laws, there’s only a handful at best of crimes that it can be utilized for,” Lowe said. “And in one of our deployments, it was for, in fact, a stolen car. And another two deployments, it was for an individual suspected of being involved in organized retail theft.”

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But the ultimate goal of the technology is to have a potentially dangerous criminal drive erratically in public.

“The officer would back off ideally out of line of sight of the outbreak because what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to prevent that flight instinct or reaction and having that individual endanger the public by erratic driving,” Lowe said. “We would monitor, for example, if that person stopped at the mall and got out. At that point, we know where the vehicle is, and then the decision would have to be made whether or not to recover the stolen vehicle or to continue surveying.”

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Redmond’s new police tech working in tandem with WA pursuit laws