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During two high-speed chases in city, did Buffalo Police follow protocol?

Some say GPS technology could solve problem
Posted at 6:56 PM, Mar 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-30 18:56:41-04

Witnesses called it “a high-speed chase” that looked like “something you see on TV.”

But Wednesday's police chase on Seneca Street was real – and it was one of two chases in two days in the Queen City.

That left some questioning whether police should be engaging in high-speed chases in busy city neighborhoods.

“You can't allow criminals and violent members of society to commit a crime and know that if they just get in a car and drive away, they get away for the day,” said Buffalo Police Lt. Jeff Rinaldo.

An internal police manual obtained by 7 Eyewitness News states that police chases "shall be limited to those circumstances in which the life or safety of any person is in imminent danger, or in which the person being pursued is suspected of having committed a violent felony."

Rinaldo said that felony occurred when the driver struck one officer and then took off.

The manual also warns officers that arresting a suspect "is never more important than the safety of innocent motorists and pedestrians, or the officers themselves."

“It's terrible,” one eyewitness said. “There's a car that's smashed, the guy who was running from the cops, a school bus, a community center, and...was it all worth it?”

Some say it's a question that could be avoided if police could get their hands on some new technology that looks straight out of a James Bond movie.

"I used to call it ‘Spiderman’ because it would literally shoot out of the front of a police cruiser,” said Buffalo Common Councilman Richard Fontana.

Fontana wants the city to buy the device, called Starchase, which attaches a GPS unit to the back of the suspect's car.

"And then you could pull back a little bit, follow the lead car on a computer screen to see where it's going,” Fontana said.

Buffalo Police tested the Starchase system a few years ago but decided against it because Rinaldo said it was “extremely expensive” at about $5,000 per vehicle. 

Police also had concerns about the devices working in cold Buffalo winters, but Fontana said the city may want to take another look. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office pioneered the use of the devices in New York.

“I think we should really use that GPS technology to make it safer in these types of situations,” Fontana said.