Democrats propose using GPS technology in high speed chases
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Democrats propose using GPS technology in high speed chases

Date: February 14, 2007
By: Matt Tilden
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 394, HB 653

JEFFERSON CITY - On Febrary 13, 2006, St. Louis police officers stopped three men in a Ford Bronco. One of the passengers flashed a gun at the police, and the car sped away. Police persued, but the chase ultimately resulted in a head-on collision with another sport utility vehicle and the deaths of two men--the driver of the fleeing vehicle and the Rev. Nathaniel Cole, a pastor who was in the other SUV. 

Cole's death led to an ongoing lawsuit against the city of St. Louis by his family and a public debate over the safety of police pursuits in the city and across the state of Missouri. 

Democrats in the House and the Senate, led by Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, are spearheading bills that would implement new technology in an attempt to avoid high-speed police pursuits like the one that claimed Cole's life.

The Democratic legislation would create the "Reverend Nathaniel Cole Memorial Pursuit Reduction Grant"  to match funding to police departments in St. Louis and Kansas City in order to purchase and maintain Global Positioning System technology for high-speed chases. The bills were proposed by Roorda nd Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Jefferson County. 

This new technology, manufactured by StarChase, a company based in Virginia Beach, Va., allows police to shoot a GPS chip at a fleeing vehicle from a launcher about the size of a paint ball gun.  This would allow police to use StarChase's service to track the vehicle from afar, instead of pursuing.

McKenna said that he believes that the state should take a proactive approach in addressing the issue of high-speed chases.  The crux of the legislation, he said, is to slow down high-speed chases and protect other drivers and law enforcement. 

Roorda, a 17-year veteran of the Kimmswick and Arnold police departments near St. Louis, said that while new technology such as StarChase is always more expensive, it is the best "bang for a buck" to fight high-speed chases. 

StarChase has not announced the cost of the program but said that it will be all-inclusive, covering the equipment used to place the tracking device and the tracking service.

Roorda cited the conflict between the police's duty to apprehend criminals and their trepidation towards putting other motorists in danger as a reason for proposing the bill. He called the implementation of StarChase a "win-win".

While Roorda's current bill would only benefit police departments in Kansas City and St. Louis, he said he eventually wants to expand use of the technology to the Highway Patrol across the state as well.

Jim Rhodes, a spokesman for StarChase, said that the tracking system will be implemented on a trial basis this summer by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol, and should undergo commercialization this summer.