WASILLA, Alaska — The Wasilla Police Department is putting the brakes on a free tool officers were given to stop high-speed chases. The department’s new chief, Mike Hughes, has told officers to temporarily stop using mobile spikes, a device that deploys spike strips from their cruisers.
The company that created the mobile spikes, Pursuit Management, Inc., came to Wasilla in March to train a few WPD officers on how to use the device -- but Hughes says more testing needs to be done with mobile spikes before the department will adopt them.
Mobile spikes are mounted on the front of a police cruiser, allowing an officer to push a button from the safety of the cruiser and disable a nearby vehicle by deflating its tire.
Pursuit Management incorporated installed five mobile spike systems on WPD vehicles. According to the department, one officer has already successfully used the mobile spike to stop a fleeing vehicle.
Department spokesperson Rick Manrique says the device works well, but notes that Hughes is concerned over liability associated with using the product.
According to Manrique, the department would like to see further testing, and it’s waiting to see whether other police agencies in the Lower 48 will also adopt the mobile spike.
“We're waiting to see what the trend nationwide seems to be with this -- and what, if any, litigation appears as a result of the use of these,” Manrique said.
In the meantime, Wasilla officers will resort to what they have used for several years: a handheld spike strip which is used by most police departments across the country.
Manrique says there are always liability issues associated with any new product adopted for use by for law enforcement. For example, it took years of research and assessment before police agencies started widespread use of Taser stun guns.
The mobile spike’s co-creator is supposed to visit Wasilla within the next few months to remove them from the department’s vehicles.
Hughes says Pursuit Management is planning to install the device on some vehicles with the Fairbanks Police Department this winter for cold-weather testing.
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