International News - Reaching for the stars to make chases safer
Australian federation asks government to investigate way to reduce dangers in high-speed pursuits
In a bid to reduce risks involved in high-speed pursuits, the Police Federation of Australia is calling for the government to investigate new technologies such as the StarChase system used by forces in the US.
Using a compressed-air launcher, the system allows pursuing officers to fire a GPS-enabled tracking device at fleeing vehicles, making it possible to safely track the vehicle's position and for officers to end the chase.
Forces could also use technology that would allow officers to interrupt the radio broadcasts into nearby cars during pursuit - in much the same way that broadcast systems in underground road tunnels are used - making it easier to warn motorists that a pursuit is in progress, the federation said in a report published last month. The StarChase system consists of a launcher mounted behind the grille of a police cruiser that uses a laser to target a fleeing vehicle.
It fires a projectile containing the GPS module, which attaches to the suspect vehicle and transmits coordinates back to the police control room.
A dispatcher then views the location and movements of the tagged vehicle on a digital roadmap via a secure internet connection. The system does not require special hardware to operate. It is compatible with existing computer-aided dispatch and automic vehicle location systems.
Senior officers are also keen to see live cameras installed in police vehicles so that high-speed chases can be more accurately monitored, helping commanding officers to decide if a pursuit should be called off.
The federation is also pushing for Australia's nine police ministers to agree on a single 'top quality' police vehicle, with the aim of reducing the number of replaced police vehicles each year - currently at around 5,000 cars - and potentially saving around A$30 million annually. The federation said: 'There is the potential for Australia to produce the world's first police vehicle fit-out production line anywhere in the world - a new global niche export industry'.