Dallas Police Department Receives 'Safer Way Award'
National nonprofit recognizes law enforcement leaders
in the area of vehicular pursuit safety
(L-R) Maryville, Illinois, Police chief Rich Schardan, Dallas Police assistant chief Randall Blankenbaker, and PursuitSAFETY executive director Candy Priano pose for the cameras after the presentation of the 2012 PursuitSAFETY "Safer Way Award."
September 25, 2012
Editor's note: On Oct. 3, the Dallas Police promoted Randall Blankenbaker to assistant chief.
CHICO, CA—PursuitSAFETY, a national nonprofit public safety organization, announces that the Dallas Police Department will receive the 2012 PursuitSAFETY "Safer Way Award." The organization recognizes the department's lifesaving tactical apprehension policy and training designed to provide officers with a legitimate, sanctioned methodology for apprehending offenders without a vehicular pursuit.
Dallas Deputy Chief Randall Blankenbaker will receive the award on behalf of the department at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference in San Diego, during the Highway Safety Awards Breakfast on October 2.
"It is an honor to recognize the Dallas Police Department for striking the right balance between vehicular police pursuits and apprehension, and by implementing policies which reduce potential harm to innocent drivers, passengers, and bystanders, as well as the officers themselves," said the organization's founder and executive director, Candy Priano.
Deputy Chief Blankenbaker (pictured right) said, "The policy and training remind officers that alternatives to pursuit exist and that additional resources are available to bring offenders to justice in a safer, more controlled manner. I believe the Dallas Police Department pursuit policy to be one of the best in the nation. It has proven to save lives. I would hope that this recognition might encourage other agencies to develop similar policies."
In 2006, the Dallas Police Department instituted a prohibition on all pursuits except for violent felonies. In the two years prior to the change, vehicular pursuit crashes resulted in six fatalities, four of whom were bystanders in the respective pursuits. Other pursuit crashes caused 39 injuries.
In the year after the change, however, the number of pursuits dropped from 354 in one year to 70, with no fatalities in the subsequent year. Of those injuries suffered in the remaining pursuits, none required transport to a hospital.
Building on this success, the department developed alternatives to otherwise unnecessarily dangerous pursuits, such as using plain-clothed officers to direct marked units to places where offenders abandon vehicles, and by selectively deploying tire deflation devices to terminate pursuits.
The department has fostered accountability by keeping its commitment to reviewing its policies and monitoring its officers' compliance, not least by installing 93 percent of its patrol fleet with video cameras, on route to its goal of 100 percent.
Consistent with this effort, the department deploys a Digital Video Recorder Team to review incidents, with the goal of commending and reinforcing outstanding action, while identifying areas for improvement and better training.
The IACP Highway Safety Committee judged the nominations received through the PursuitSAFETY.org web site. Maryville, IL, Police Chief Richard Schardan, Sr., the award program administrator, expressed his personal appreciation to all of the departments that submitted nominations, including two others of note.
"The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's pursuit policy is another commendable model," said Chief Schardan, who also acknowledged a nomination submitted on behalf of two Chicago officers.
Chicago Police 18th District police officers Tomasz Zatora and Matthew Wagner used restraint, sound instincts and skillful tactics to protect the public when they responded to a shooting in which they received registration information regarding the offenders' vehicle.
Thereafter, when the officers identified the offender driving at a normal speed, the officers inferred that enough time had passed that the offender had likely disposed of the gun.
Accordingly, the officers, rather than reflexively initiate a vehicular pursuit, radioed for back up. They waited for the suspect's car to exit an expressway and pull into a gas station, before executing a successful arrest.
In 2011, PursuitSAFETY presented its first "Safer Way Award" to the St. Louis County Police Department for apprehending car burglars without a pursuit.
These departments' efforts reduced the number of fatalities and injuries to innocent bystanders and police officers by using other methods to apprehend suspects. In short: a safer way.