Independence police adopt high-tech gadget even James Bond would envy

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Two videos of pursuits from Independence police dashcams captured moments that might be more common in spy movies.

In both instances, a patrol car moves close behind a fleeing vehicle and fires a GPS tagging device that sticks to the fleeing vehicle, allowing police to track it.

The officers end what would have been a high-speed pursuit and dispatchers track the car, allowing police to apprehended the person later when it’s safer.

The device is part of the StarChase system, and it is Independence Police Department's latest tool in reducing the number of dangerous high-speed chases while at the same time tracking down those who run from police.

"We know that at the end of the day, our job is to catch the bad guys, but also safety is a big thing," said Officer John Syme, a spokesman for the Independence Police Department. “We feel that using a technology like this is going to help us be better at what we do because a lot of our pursuits will discontinue if they get too dangerous."

For example, if a pursuit wound its way into a residential neighborhood, police might have had to terminate the chase, letting the person get away.

"With this technology, we can put this tag on the vehicle, we can back off and we can watch them on a computer screen somewhere else, know where it's going and get in there and arrest the person later," Syme said. "It's safe all the way round – for the public mainly, for us as officers but also for the bad guys."

Independence police announced Thursday that they are the first law enforcement agency in the Kansas City area to successfully use the StarChase device to apprehend people who flee from police.

The department has been using the technology for a couple months and have successfully tracked down several people who have fled from police. Each time, there were no crashes.

The StarChase system works by allowing officers to fire the GPS tag from a launcher behind the grill of the police car. Compressed air propels the tag at the fleeing vehicle. Heavy-duty adhesive on the tag allows it to stick to the fleeing vehicle. Once police dispatchers are tracking the device, officers terminate the pursuit while dispatchers watch on a map where the vehicle is headed. Police then coordinate the arrest of the person later when it's safer.

Syme said police would continue to pursue fleeing vehicles in accordance with its pursuit policy. StarChase is another tool that its officers can use to catch those who flee.

"Our work in general is dangerous – every car stop, we never know what we are going to deal with," Syme said. "On pursuits, it's the same thing, but at higher speeds. We can't control the actions of the bad guy. Obviously it is their responsibility and their duty to pull over and stop for us. There are crashes involved in pursuits, and innocent people can be hurt. We think this technology helps avoid that."

The use of the GPS technology comes at at time police departments across the country and in the Kansas City area are changing policies and trying new technologies to make police chases less deadly.

The units cost about $5,000 each. Independence hasn’t decide how many vehicles will be equipped with the device. The department will not disclose how many vehicles have been equipped, saying it would reduce its tactical advantage.

The department wants the public to know that it is always looking at new technology to keep them safer. This system will allow officers to reduce the number of chases but still catch people who are committing crimes, Syme said.

"We want the would-be bad guys out there who think about coming into Independence and running from police to know – they already know that Independence will be more likely to chase them – but we now have this technology that makes us better at what we do,' Syme said.

About StarChase Pursuit Management Technology
StarChase LLC is a company specializing in tagging and tracking pursuit management solutions for the law enforcement sector. The privately held company is based in Virginia Beach, Va., and has been in operation since 2001. The StarChase products are patent protected in several countries, including the United States.

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