Hey, everybody, it's me, Josh, your old pal, your old buddy, and I'm here with another SARS case, Selex, and this week it's all about police chases. We released this episode back in May of 2013. And it's one of those things where you think you have an idea about how something works or what something is. And the more you dig into it, the more you realize that, like, wow, we've all just kind of been going along with this thing that probably shouldn't exist.
So it was a real eye opening experience to me. And I hope even if you've heard the episode before, that you find it an eye opening again. Let's all just watch our eyes open if you can do such a thing. I don't even know if that's possible.
Welcome to Stuff You Should Know, a production of NPR Radio's HowStuffWorks. Do you do you hey, welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark. This child said you took Bryant, who's, you know, someone on Twitter, said that every time Chuck Bryant giggles, a baby bunny is born. Really? Yeah. And they meant it to. Wow. And I love being responsible for all that joy in the world. You're doing it. And so I guess you just open the show with your being chased by a police car in Great Britain.
You did a British siren, I guess it was.
Yeah, not like me to do that. Here in the United States, we have different sounding sirens.
Well, in these days, it's all kinds of crazy, like beeps and whistles, yes, like boop boop, boop. It's like an American police cruiser today.
Wow, this is getting off to a great start. Let's let's try to keep it on track. All right. On the EVC track. Yeah.
This is this is in our long running law enforcement series.
You know, it's unequaled by any other topic except for death. I think, you know, I think death might have it be OK. Maybe not the. We'll find out. All right, uh, Gasko, count them after this. OK, Chuck, have you ever been in a police chase?
Um, have you ever been the object of pursuit in a police chase? Yeah, I was not driving. I was in a car one time when my friend decided to run from the cops.
Wow. We lay it on us.
Well, you know, it was just one of those things. We were in Athens and he made a very bad decision. And, uh, we got away with it.
Yeah, well, see, that's something that I find extremely interesting because I didn't realize until reading this article that, um, there are very few circumstances where a cop should feel justified it or would be justified in chasing you. Right. But that said, there are almost no laws whatsoever restricting police chases. It's just weird grey area. And I actually found there's activists online who are saying like say no to police chases like restrict police chases like create laws against police chases because these things are deadly and dangerous.
Yeah, I think what about 140 innocent civilians were killed last year? Yeah, 300 about a person a day on average dies from a police chase and about a third of those. But yeah, last year is one hundred and forty are just innocent bystanders. Yeah.
I mean that happened in Atlanta. That's happened in Atlanta a couple of times recently, one time the trainer for the Atlanta Braves, his because he lost his wife to a cop smashing into her teeth.
And then again, more recently, there was another case.
I think it was a kid or something, but it was like sort of in the news lately.
Yeah. And I mean, you get the impression that in cops did, too, like high speed pursuit is their high speed pursuit. That's dangerous for everybody involved, including the cop. But you get the impression that, like, whatever the circumstances are, just just not pulling over for being for for a cop trying to pull you over. Yeah. Is reason enough to get the cop's hackles raised enough to chase you? Yeah.
Right off the bat. I think that would be any cop's instinct. Is gun it not like. Well, let me check into his record and call my supervisor. Right.
And see if they allow this, which a lot of times as policy as we'll see, there are procedures in place to kind of try to tamp down that emotion.
The primary cop or departmental policy, basically, though, like you said, not law. Right. So let's let's talk about this, OK? When you go through the academy and you get all your training, your gun training, you're hanging out with Tackle Berry and you learn how to make cool sounds like machine guns or like.
Yeah. Huh. Yeah. You spend about a week, probably a little less learning how to drive the car. Yeah. Sadly, only about two of those days are dedicated to high speed pursuit. Yeah. Which apparently is an improvement over zero days, which is how it used to be in the 40s and 50s. Yeah. I guess they just said good luck. Right. You should know how to drive ask. Right. You know, if you're an old country sheriff, you probably ran moonshine.
Exactly. Or your cousin does at least. Yeah. But there is a lot to it in a Greb and ask you the grabs her. Yeah. Points out that you know, in a high speed pursuit, uh, cop's car can be just as deadly as a cop's gun and they need to know how to use it just as well and just as accurately. Yeah. Because not only do you not have to know how to drive, you have to know how to drive fast while you're also turning on the lights and the sirens.
And I guess you're calling in something. And like all that other stuff has to be second nature to you so that you can focus on the driving. Yeah, well, using just a minimal amount of your brain power on the other stuff. Yeah.
So part of the car training is just that how to run a police car stuff because it's not like every other car.
Right. And if you, if you are being trained to to drive in high speeds in pursuit of a suspect. Yeah. And they send you to Colorado, you can be reasonably assured that you're going to come back among the better trained police in the country because the Colorado State Police maintain a course in emergency vehicles operation course. That is the cream of the crop that you see like the aerial view of it.
Yeah, I mean, they cover all the scenarios, like on ramps and off ramps, high speed turns, intersections. They've really got all laid out there and put you in a scenario where as close as you could get to like an active street. Right.
It's like there's skid plates. Yeah. Where the coefficient of friction is zero point one five compared to say I'm just saying this off the top of my head, a couple of coefficient of friction of like zero point nine five on a dry highway.
Yeah. So that's slick. Yeah, that is slick. They need to know how to not spin out basically. Yeah.
And that's I think the exception is a really elaborate course like this. I think a lot of local police still use the parking lot in the cones, the back, which is better than an orange cone. You dock today, you put an egg on it like a Brady Bunch. Yeah, I remember that.
That was one of the greatest television shows of all time. The Brady Bunch. Yeah, absolutely.
So let's talk about persued equipment. Right. Basically, what we just said was police training. You get a couple of days. Maybe if you're lucky, you get a few days on like a really great course, maybe out in Colorado. Yeah, for the most part, it's like, you know, how to drive. Just drive really fast. Here's your Crown Vic. Yeah, the Ford Crown Victoria is the most common police car, although they're using all sorts of different cars today.
When you drive around, you'll see like those Dodge Chargers and like the more souped up, I think in L.A., the state patrol had those mustangs. Yeah. Like the really souped up sports cars. Um, apparently they're getting away from Crown Victorias because that model of car had a big problem with it, whereas if you were rear ended in a high speed collision, your car blew up.
Yeah, that was that the pacer that did that in the 70s. You know, the Pinto Pinto, the Ford Pinto. Again, Ford had the opposite problem. If you if you collided with something on the front end, I thought it was the rear. I think it was the front. Well, let me tell you this either way, I learned about it from the movie Top Secret, where a pinto just barely hits a tree in front and blows up.
And then for two ambulances for a while, we're blown up, too. Oh, really? Yeah. So Ford with the. With the police in sceptered Crown Vic created this this chemical fire suppression system, right where right when your rear ended at a high enough impact.
Forceful enough impact. This this fire suppression thing goes off. So even if there's not a fire, there's not going to be a fire anyway. Right. But apparently it's enough that some some people are like, yeah, we're going to go with the Intrepid, right? Yeah.
You see a lot of Crown Vics in Atlanta, too, like just regular people driving them. Yes. Like sort of a thing now. Yeah, it is.
It's like a little spotlight. Yeah. It's like, man, don't mess with me like that on the highway.
So there are some differences, of course, when a police car, if you think it's just a regular Crown Victoria, it is not or whatever it is. A lot of times it does have more horsepower in the engine because they need that kind of juice and they weigh more, obviously, than your standard car because there's more guns and things you're going to have like metal reinforced seat backs and things. So like you can't get stabbed in the back from the back seat.
I mean, if you did or shootings or anything, if you didn't do a good job of checking for weapons, um, what else?
Extra transmission coolers and oil coolers. Yeah, because, I mean, like a radiator tops, like they don't turn their car off ever. Yeah. Like that heat he builds up. So they have like oil coolers and transmission fluid coolers, bigger alternators to supply more power. Yeah. Up to one hundred and thirty amps if that means anything to you.
And then lights.
Well and vinyl seats though in the rear. That's that's important. Yeah. You're never going to find cloth interior in the back of a police car because suspects are dirty, they're dirty and oftentimes they will poop and vomit and bleed and just do whatever, whatever bodily fluid they can get out in that police car.
They probably will. So they want to make it easily get out the or nine and the paper towels and just clean it out right there. That's security. Yeah.
Lights, apparently. Yeah. They used to have them on the fenders in the 30s. Yeah. And they said, you know what, this is visible but it's not as visible as if it were on the roof. Right. So they created what's known as the light bar, which was a little more recent than I thought.
It was the 70s that these things made their debut. Yeah. And I thought back. I was like, oh yeah. You never see, like, cars in the sixties or even early 70s with that light bar. So I was born at about the time the light bar came along.
Yeah. I think, you know, you remember seeing the single siren sometimes. Yeah. Yeah. Or the double blue Dirty Harry would put on. Yeah. And do like you.
Well some were built in but yeah they also had undercover cars. That was one of the great parts of any cop movie was. Yeah. When they got out the siren and put it on the roof.
Now you can get them at Spencer's gifts.
Some are blue and some uh, some are blue and some are red. Though I've never known the distinction, I always thought ambulances were red and cops were blue. But in different cities, I've seen cops. I've read I think it depends on what side of the force you're on. Oh, really? Yeah. Like how your military oriented Iosif.
So one thing they can do to to prevent the chase from happening altogether.
You've seen the old Spike strip. Yeah. They'll lay down these rubber mats with spikes all across the road or they have them like, like an accordion. You just kind of throw and hang on to one end the other.
That's the quick version. Yeah. And so that'll obviously disable the tires.
Um, you can the good old fashioned roadblock that you see in movies actually happens. Sure. They line up cars and except in this version, there's not a conveniently parked tow truck ramp right beside the criminal to jump over everybody or bust through.
I guess you have to be careful setting those up because it's normally going the criminals not going to try to push through the car, but they may try to go around.
So you have to make sure that if you set up this roadblock, it's it's not like going to funnel them into somebody's house. You don't think you do that in, like, a neighborhood? Right. That would be a good idea.
You want to do it on a country road and then modern techniques, which I think if they bring this stuff along, that's really where it's at, like microwave technology to disable the electrical system, Mumbaikar or shooting a laser, high speed avoidance using laser technology called system.
Of course, they left out a couple of letters there high. Oh, yeah. It should be to all hate that halt.
It's not an acronym if you're leaving out words just to make it a cute word. No. All right.
Um, so like a Laotian last name, they spelled it out correctly. So in that case, they're shooting a laser to cut off your fuel supply. But here's the rub. There is the vehicle that they're shooting. It has to has a special microchip in it.
Yeah, I didn't look into that, did you? Is it like newer vehicles?
Oh, that's my guess, is that they're going to start putting these in all cars or something like they make some deal that would be fine with me.
I mean, it's better than pursuing somebody. Absolutely. You know, and then, of course, you have air support either in the form of a police helicopter or like 50 news helicopters. If the police chase out in California or the world's scariest police chase helicopter.
Yeah, whoever those guys are, I think they just get footage from news copters and cop copters. Do you watch the shows? I know. I've talked about I've seen them before.
Yeah. Yeah. There's just so. I don't know, I feel that's one of my guilty pleasures. Do you watch those still? Yeah. I mean, it's not appointment television. I never know when or where they come on.
Yeah, but if I'm flipping it around and I'll see a police chase, I lived in L.A. It's sort of a thing. It really is. There is, you know. Yeah. And apparently California has some of the most police protective laws.
Yeah. As far as pursuits go, they happen a lot out there. Yeah. And like the everybody just stops doing what they're doing and watches the live coverage of it. Sort of. Do you remember the guy who killed himself on live television after a police pursuit and. Yeah, they showed it on Fox. I guess I saw that when it happened live. Yeah, I was I remember very distinctly it was like.
Not like a movie. No, you know, like if you've ever seen someone shoot their head off with a shotgun in real life, it's nothing like, yeah, it's not some big dramatic movie thing.
It's just sad. Yeah, it really was. Yeah. It was like he might have been like making origami or something. Like it was just that pedestrian. Yeah.
Or it was just like he just had the gun and he'd pull it up and shot himself and he hunches over and just falls. Yeah. It was, it's weird. It was really weird to see. It was very sad.
And of course all the kids that saw that, that's like it's terrible. Yeah.
So initially if someone takes off like you were talking about the police officer that's on the scene has a decision to make, to pursue or not to pursue lots of policies. One thing they want to do is run the tags. Is that a stolen vehicle where they just in an armed robbery or is it just somebody who has a couple of traffic tickets out or nothing at all?
So on the record, apparently the the pursuit that enjoys the widest support around the country is if it's a violent criminal. Yeah. Somebody who poses an imminent threat to somebody else. Somebody who's just carried out a violent act and is escaping like pretty much everybody says, chase that guy. Right. Like if you said the person has a couple of traffic tickets or if they have nothing. Yeah. And the only reason to chase them is that they didn't pull over for you.
Yeah, that is not reason to pursue. And yet 43 percent of all pursuits and I believe 2011 were for traffic violations.
Yeah. I mean, I feel for the cops has got to be their instinct, like go get that person. They're fleeing me for a good reason, you know, like I get it. But when people are innocent, people are dying. Yeah. There needs to be like some policy in place for sure. And apparently, Chuck, ninety one point four percent of chases were for nonviolent crimes. I believe that. So if the cop says, OK, this guy's this car just came back stolen.
Yeah. Guy just waved a gun. Yeah. And it's a very clear case that he should pursue go get him. There are other things to consider. Yeah. What's don't go get him. What's traffic like. What's the word. Are the road conditions like rainy. Is it dark. Is you in a neighborhood. Pedestrians everywhere. Yeah. You might want to just kind of slowly tell the guy, well the one in Atlanta where they killed the trainer's wife.
I think it was a sort of a busy afternoon in an urban area, just like they shouldn't have been pursuing anyone at this point. Do you know what they were pursuing the person for? No, I don't remember. Um, and so if they decide to go ahead and pursue, then this this series of procedures kind of come into place like they need to be radioing back in to headquarters. Yeah. Like immediately.
Right. And apparently there every step of the way. Or they just kind of keep the whoever they're talking to their supervisor. Right. Posted on what's going on in the supervisor's role is to keep a cool head because they're not the one who the person isn't pulling over for. So they're they're not mad. Sure. They don't want to crackheads, you know, so they're their whole role is to to say, you know what, like we should you just told me that there's some pedestrians around.
This guy's not a violent offender.
Don't don't complete this pursuit. Or we have like we have chopper coverage.
So back off with the cars and we can still, like, follow this car from above. Yeah. You know, like we're still going to get our guy right. Don't you worry about it. Yeah.
Um, one of my favorite things, if you watch the show cops, you are well versed with the pit maneuver. Mm hmm. Please, I'm sorry.
Pursuit intervention technique also called the tactical vehicle intervention. And that is the famous move. If a cop has, you know, you'll hear him. They have to get clearance for the pit maneuver, even though they'll call it in and say, hey, I think I've got a chance for a pit.
Can I take it? And they'll say, if you feel like, you know, the streets are clear enough and you know you have to do it on a turn, you don't just, like, run up beside someone and run them off the road. It's when they enter a turn, the cop hits the gas and hits them on the left rear bumper and just basically spins them out. And it's it works if done correctly.
And they'll train, you know, you get trained when you get the defensive driving on the pit maneuver and they just spin out and they come out of it, can't come out of it.
Your car spins and that's generally on cops.
At least when the guys will jump out of the car, the car's still rolling and take off on foot. Yeah. And then you hear these cops, you know, with the they're miked up.
So all you hear is like running in the dark with all this gear on. You're like, man, what a crappy job.
Well, you know, check your heavy breathing. Just reminded me of something at that time. It's time for a message break. All right. Heavy breathing, indeed, so you were talking about the wildest police chases, that kind of show that you like.
I don't know who would watch stuff like that grabs their takes to task those kind of shows for presenting a very unbalanced picture of police chases. They don't show the cops backing off of a pursuit becomes too dangerous.
They don't show the cops crashing into innocent bystanders car. Right. They they never say, well, this cop probably shouldn't have pursued this person because this is a minor violation. Yeah. And they they always kind of tend to present the police in a favorable light.
Yeah. And I think it's more I don't know if they're out to make. Oh, maybe they are. I just think it's better TV obviously like you would want to show and they're like, oh, now let's just back off and get back to doing that for sure.
Plus also, they want to maintain the kind of relationship with cops, police departments that where they'll give them their footage. Absolutely. You know, now the shows are good for the cops. I'm sure we hear. I don't know if you can hear those people. Sounds like a police chase going on outside right now.
I think it is. This is this is really dramatic footage.
Um, uh. Do you remember the O.J. thing specifically? Yeah, where were you then? I was in college. In college? Yeah, I remember too.
Of course I know the chase wasn't I didn't watch much of the chase. I remember the verdict. Yeah, I remember the chase specifically because they it was during the Knicks Rockets NBA playoffs.
And my buddy Justin is a huge Knicks fan and he was really upset and he was like, do you have to have it on every channel?
And I agreed with it's like, why, you know, you're going to preempt the basketball game.
It's on a hundred channels. I can't in the one person out there that wants to watch the basketball get really upset, the ratings would have gone through the roof and that was a low speed chase that wasn't even. Yeah, that was just weird. Yeah. You know, well, low speed chases are very weird. I'm ac it's just like, you know who I am.
I'm not going to pull over. Yeah.
So. Well, let's talk about the legalities of it. Right. There's like we said, there's pretty much no laws that restrict police chases. They have the right to do that in all cases. Yeah. And as a matter of fact, they don't even have to have their lights and sirens running to engage in pursuit. Yeah, that's a fallacy. Um, the there are department procedures regarding police chases, though. Yeah. But the thing is, is even if a cop violates department procedure and continues the pursuit, they're still not breaking any laws.
Right. So, for example, in Washington, DC, you can only pursue if the suspect has engaged in a violent act or someone could be seriously hurt if the suspect were allowed to escape. Right.
Um, in Des Moines, Iowa, no more than three cars can engage in a pursuit. Yeah, that makes good sense. It's a good rule. And you have to take into account a the the time of day road and weather conditions, the nature of the offense and a supervisor has to pursue has to approve the pursuit. Right. And then in Florida. Orange County, Florida, that's the Orlando area, yeah, are they the ones that have real restrictive policies?
Yeah, and as a matter of fact, they found that after in the year after they enacted their restrictive pursuit policies, felonies in Orlando declined.
Yeah. What's up with that? I don't know. One of those weird things.
Yeah, there is also something called sovereign immunity, which is a government official is not liable for damages that occur while they're doing their job.
Yeah, that's like old time common law. Yeah, old school. But these days there are a lot of municipalities that have overridden that law with with other laws. And like I think with the Georgia case, I think that cop was fired and brought up on charges and I think they could even to the police station.
Yeah. With that. But not by himself.
In overriding the sovereign immunity laws, most most departments or communities protect the cops individually, but financially. But the institution can still be sued. Right. But they're not protected criminally, like they can still be brought up on charges. They can't be sued. I think. Gotcha, because I'm pretty sure this Brave's guy, I think he went on trial. Well, apparently, if I'm wrong, then I'm going to eat crow.
But in California, you're basically out of luck if the cops mess up your storefront with their cars during a pursuit. Yeah, there are laws very much protect the cops from that.
I would like liability insurance would help out, though, you would hope. But I mean, your rates are going to rise. Yeah. What were you doing? Nothing. You just happened to have a store in the wrong place in L.A. Chase. So that's a police chases. You got anything else? I got nothing else. They seem way more dangerous than I even thought, and I thought they were pretty dangerous before. Yeah.
Don't support those TV shows. People don't listen to me though. Glorifying. Yeah.
Do as he says, not as he does. That's right.
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It normally would be, but I do not have a listener mail prepared. Instead, we are going to have a callout, which we do every now and then. A couple of things that help us out. People in our job with your free podcast is if you go to iTunes and you leave us a review and a rating, that helps us out. So we would invite people to do that. And I know we always mention our home on the Web, the stuff he should know Dotcom.
Yeah, but we really would like to send people there to check it out. And we've got like videos and blogs and image galleries and some really cool animated stuff. And it's like I'm proud of this website. It's a great website. It really is.
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