Tire deflation technology
"Tire deflation devices are a must if a law enforcement agency wants to reduce the dangers of police pursuits," says Capt. Travis Yates of the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Police Department. "They will no doubt slow a pursuit. Our agency has experienced great results with a limited number of devices. In every instance, the suspect has stopped within minutes of deployment. We plan to place the device in every marked car within six months."
And, the devices can be used in tandem with other high-tech options to control pursuits. Consider the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) which employs Stop Stick devices and helicopters. "The spike strips are used to slow the speed of the suspect vehicle with a controlled tire deflation," explains Sgt. Robert Reid of the LAPD. "The helicopter is used in several ways to ensure public safety. One way is what our department calls the 'tracking' mode (others call it surveillance). We keep track of the suspect with the police car being out of the suspect's line of sight. The idea is that the suspect will slow down when he/she doesn't see a police vehicle."
The following companies market tire deflation devices for law enforcement.
Stop Tech requires a copy of the pursuit report when agencies request free replacements. "We have documented 11,700 successful deployments over the past 11 years," he notes. "One thing we've found is that up to 15 percent of pursuits start after the suspect vehicle has been pulled over. That's why we also offer the Patrol Terminator."
Available for the past six years, this shorter device with bigger quills is deployed by an officer as he approaches the pulled-over vehicle. He merely drops it between the front and back tires. If the suspect vehicle pulls away unexpectedly, its tires will deflate in 3 to 5 seconds. "The U.S. Customs department uses Terminators at every border crossing," Robson points out.
On the market since April 2005, the patented S2D2 is deployed via a switch inside the vehicle. "Each S2D2 carries three Stop Sticks and is fully functional on all types of vehicles."
"Upon penetration, the spike releases a large, regulated volume of air every time," he explains. "Because the MagnumSpike! effects deflations within the same safe short distance every time, departments can preplan the stop in detail."
He says his product is backed by a five-year, 100-percent warranty that replaces spikes as well as any other component. "There's no down time because the spikes can be replaced in the field without tools, and we don't charge shipping for replacements in the 48 contiguous states."
Phoenix International also offers a smaller version called the Magnum Claw. "The pocket-size, wallet-shaped product can be used for DUI checks, tactical teams serving warrants, apprehending stolen cars, etc. "If placed in front of the rear tires, it keeps the suspect from fleeing," Dhondy says.
Selecting a tire deflation device
Manufacturers of tire deflation devices recommend law enforcement officials consider the following questions when selecting this technology for patrol use.
- Does this product benefit or increase officer safety?
- Can this product be used effectively on any size vehicle and in all road conditions?
- Will the product's construction hold up to the rigors of law enforcement use?
- Is the product easy to deploy?
- Does the device install easily? How easily can it be replaced?
- What are the long-term costs (beyond the initial investment)?
- What training does the company offer to users?
Emerging pursuit technologies
When it comes to pursuit technologies, tire deflation technologies have been the mainstay for some time, but some new technologies are emerging that also can help agencies manage pursuits.
With this system, the officer is connected to a central department computer, which has downloaded federal and state stolen cars databases. As the cruiser goes about its business, the system runs cars it sees ahead or parked along a street and alerts the officer when a stolen car is detected. "A photo of the license plate and the car appears on the officer's screen, along with a global positioning system (GPS) map of where the vehicle was when the police car passed it. Even switched plates show up," Krause says. "It's clear if a Cadillac license is now on a Mustang. The Auto-Vu shows all offenses associated with a license plate, too. The system can handle 11,000 plates an hour."
In a pursuit, this system will allow officers to safely locate a vehicle after its parked, rather than put lives at risk in a high-speed chase.
By January 2007, Safe Cop will soon handle StarChase, a tagging and tracking pursuit management system now under development. It's currently being tested by the LAPD and the Florida Highway Patrol. This system consists of a vehicle-mounted 40-caliber launching device behind the grille that discharges a tagging projectile containing a miniature GPS receiver, battery and radio transmitter in an epoxy compound. The tag adheres to the suspect vehicle and transmits its location coordinates to a central server. Police dispatchers can view the vehicle's location and movements. "Officers can apprehend suspects without a chase," Krause says.