Night flight: Auburn Police pursuits up 63 percent

Eluders keep cops busy in the wee hours

Motorists fled from Auburn Police a total of 43 times in 2017, significantly up from 27 in 2016, and mostly between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m.

That is, a 63 percent increase in one year.

As Auburn Police Cmdr. Mike Hirman told the Auburn City Council in a study session last week, it may just be that the bad guys really start to boogaloo when the sun is down, so the APD puts more of its officers out there. Or, could be the light traffic in the wee hours.

Is it the start of a trend or an anomaly? Can’t say for certain.

“I don’t have an explanation for many of these factors, but sometimes factors can be convoluted and more complicated than just one answer,” Hirman told City leaders May 14, as he presented the APD’s Annual Pursuit Analysis for 2017.

The APD completes the document every year to ensure that its officers are following pursuit policy, and because it has to do so to maintain national accreditation as a police agency.

According to the analysis, which lists the number of police pursuits between 1997 and 2017, since 2008, the figures have stayed relatively steady, outside of that 63 percent bump last year.

Turns out that December is the busiest month for pursuits, the analysis registering a total of 59 between 1997 and 2017.

“I can tell you that over the years, the weekends tend to be a little busier when it comes to making pursuits,” Hirman said. “Last year was an anomaly – Thursdays and Fridays were the busier days.”

Most of the pursuits happen on Saturdays, with a total of 103 occuring over the last 20 years of Saturdays. Mondays and Tuesdays, however, show the fewest pursuits, 61 and 66, respectively, over the same time span.

The analysis records as well the times of day when some motorists get the bright idea to flee.

“We like to keep track of what time pursuits occur, in daytime or in hours of darkness. Most of them are happening at night, which is no surprise. What’s a little surprising given the winters we have is that 81 percent are happening on dry roadways,” Hirman said.

The analysis tracks the type of vehicles doing the fleeing, and three quarters of them are sedans.

For a number of reasons, police track the initial reason officers decide to pursue a vehicle, Hirman said, noting that over the years the APD has imposed restrictions on its officers about pursuing for minor violations and non- violent violations.

“We do monitor the initial reason, and the initial reason isn’t working for us because there is always an underlying reason why they are running,” Hirman said. “Typically, people don’t run from us because we see they have a broken tail light – they run from us because they have a broken tail light – and that was the initial observation – and then they have a warrant out for their arrest, or the car ends up stolen or for some other reason.”

Of those 43 pursuits last year, the officer or his or her supervisor ended 33 because they involved a minor violation and went for distances that made them uneasy. For 10 of them, Hirman said, police had other underlying reasons.

Police track distances traveled during pursuits, and according to the analysis, the APD chased 33 eluders less than one mile in 2017, the lowest average distance. Police track the percentage of pursuits that involve sustained speeds of 80 mph, too.

“We all know the longer a pursuit goes on, and the higher the speed, the more risk to us and to the public,” Hirman said. “We want to keep both of those low. We want to know how the pursuits are ending. If you add those up, there were more than 43, because sometimes there is more than one way pursuits can end. The officer could (perform a pit maneuver) on someone, lay a spike down, or maybe get a K-9 capture.”

As Auburn Police Cmdr. Mark Callier told the council in presenting the APD’s annual Commendations, Inquiries and Allegations of Misconduct Analysis, in 2017 officers responded to 97,843 CAD incidents compared to 94,348 in 2016, and completed 17,128 case reports, down from 17,823 in 2016.

Officers made 5,115 arrests in 2017 and 4,718 in 2016 and booked 3,002 of the arrestees into the SCORE Jail, compared to 2,551 the year before. They issued 11,483 infractions, up from 8,298 in 2016.

The total number of allegations against officers generated by external sources was eight, and the number that came from inside the department was six, for a combined total of 14 in 2017.

One allegation generated by external source resulted in a determination of sustained misconduct, and five from within added up to of six.

Allegations against officers that came from inside the department in 2017 typically resulted in a finding of actual misconduct, Callier said.

One officer involved resigned before the investigation ended, resulting in a finding of no conclusion. Callier said that 100 percent of the allegations received from inside the department resulted in a finding of misconduct. The one sustained-misconduct allegation from outside the department began with a discourtesy complaint.

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