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An Arizona Department of Public Safety pursuit that began when the agency’s deputy director witnessed a car theft and ended with a suspect’s death included several actions that strayed from DPS policies, a report has concluded.
None of the actions are cited as endangering the public, but a review of the incident called for additional training and review of several DPS policies pertaining to pursuits by those who were involved.
The report, released by DPS on Thursday, found most of the actions by those involved were considered reasonable and fell within the policies defined by DPS.
The report, compiled by DPS Maj. Jack R. Johnson, chairman of the agency’s Critical Incident Review Board, centered on the Jan. 24 pursuit of 29-year-old Bradley Burton Moore, of Florence, who died when the car he was driving ran through a guardrail and into a canyon on northbound Interstate 17 south of Camp Verde, officials said.
That ended a pursuit that began in Gilbert when a man, later identified as Moore, was seen by DPS Deputy Director Lt. Col. Heston Silbert stealing a car near Guadalupe and Cooper roads. Silbert was off-duty at the time and in his personal vehicle.
The ensuing pursuit continued north on Loop 101 though Scottsdale, across northeast Phoenix and onto Interstate 17 to northern Arizona.
Actions considered ‘reasonable’
The report names 23 people who were involved in the pursuit, 14 of them DPS troopers or supervisors, eight police communications dispatchers, and one Tempe police officer who was part of a multiagency task force.
The majority of their actions were considered “reasonable” under the DPS pursuit policies and warranted no further action, according to Johnson’s report to DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead. The report is dated March 23.
According to the report, Silbert notified a Gilbert police officer that he had witnessed the car theft and advised that he was an off-duty DPS official. Silbert asked whether the officer wanted him to keep following the vehicle, and the officer asked that he do so, the report said.
The report then goes into detail on how Silbert, along with a Gilbert police officer, followed the suspect north along the 101 and into northeast Phoenix, where the car exited the freeway briefly, before returning to Loop 101, heading west to I-17, then heading north.
Silbert was driving his personal vehicle and remained in contact with dispatchers via cellphone as other DPS officials were deployed. Silbert told dispatchers it appeared two people were in the car, raising the possibility that it was a carjacking and a victim was inside the vehicle with Moore, the report said.
A Phoenix police helicopter also was called to track the vehicle, and at one point, asked that only unmarked vehicles follow the car from a distance while marked vehicles backed off.
As the vehicle traveled north, troopers deployed stop sticks ahead of it, at one point flattening two tires, but the car continued, reaching speeds at up to 90 mph, the report said. Silbert eventually backed off the pursuit as more DPS troopers became involved to the north.
The report said when Moore crashed south of Camp Verde, he was ejected as the vehicle rolled 400 feet into a canyon, which is about 300 feet more than initially reported by DPS. No other person was found with him, the report said.
The report notes that Moore’s parents were interviewed after the incident and said the man called during the pursuit to say he was being chased by police and to ask if they saw him on the news.
Further training recommended
The report concluded that overall, the actions of those involved were reasonable and in compliance with DPS policies.
However, it cited several areas in which further training or policy review for those involved is needed. Among those recommendations:
- All DPS employees involved in the incident should review the department policy for when a pursuit formally is initiated. The report said some involved initially perceived the incident to be a pursuit and some did not. The report says an actual pursuit is designated when a driver fails to respond to an active attempt by a trooper to stop him. In this case, the report said, a formal pursuit began the first time stop sticks were deployed and the suspect continued, the report said.
- All DPS personnel involved should review the agency’s policy for taking command of a pursuit. The report says as the situation unfolded, it was not clear who was taking command of the situation. This may have been caused, in part, because of Silbert’s involvement as the highest-ranking person, the report suggests. However, the report notes that Silbert was off-duty and should not have been expected to take command.
- The report recommends all involved review recordings of the incident’s radio traffic as a reminder about not broadcasting information that has not been clarified. It cited several incidents in which misinformation was relayed.
- A motorcycle trooper and captain should review the policy for when a motorcycle unit needs to back away from a pursuit. The report found the motorcycle trooper joined the incident on Loop 101 and followed it until it ended, even though there were enough troopers from other districts to handle the situation.
- The report recommended an update to the department’s Pursuit Safety training program and require all employees who are in a job that may require them to participate in a pursuit be required to take the training.
The report added there is “no evidence to suggest that any involved employee acted outside the Department’s mission, values and code of ethics while the incident was transpiring.”
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