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Common Council’s Public Safety Committee briefed on new StarChase technology to be used by MPD

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MILWAUKEE — Some Milwaukee aldermen were able to get a better understanding of some new technology that will be utilized by the Milwaukee Police Department as an alternative to high-speed pursuits. Once a contract is signed, MPD could be using this technology within a few weeks.

One month ago, in early August, MPD officials announced the department’s initial purchase of Pursuit Management Technology units from StarChase, LLC. This technology-driven tool provides an alternative to police pursuits — but critics wonder whether it’s worth the cost.

StarChase GPS technology (alternative to high-speed pursuits)

StarChase GPS technology (alternative to high-speed pursuits)

The system includes a pneumatically-powered GPS tag to be deployed from an equipped squad car and attached to a target vehicle.

MPD Deputy Inspector Terrence Gordon says the technology will soon be used on a one-and-a-half-dozen to two-dozen MPD vehicles.

The technology is already being used by the Iowa State Patrol.

StarChase GPS tracking device on suspect vehicle

StarChase GPS tracking device on suspect vehicle

Here’s how it works: When the GPS technology is activated, a lid flips open on the grill of the squad car, and a GPS tracking device shoots out and attaches to the suspect vehicle.

Once the target vehicle is tagged, the GPS movements can be monitored by officers and dispatchers alike, allowing for a safer, more focused, more effective apprehension of a suspect who flees.

“The trackers will adhere to dirty and salt-covered cars,” Gordon said.

MPD officials were invited to present information about the technology to the Milwaukee Common Council’s Public Safety Committee Thursday.

“It’s designed so that the dispatch centers and the officers in their squad cars can watch a map. The idea is that the dispatchers will be able to direct additional resources to the area where the vehicle is going — so we can have a very low-profile arrest made,” MPD Chief of Staff Joel Plant said.

Alderman Joe Davis: “What’s the distance for once it’s activated 10 seconds how far can the actual projectile attach to a car?”

StarChase technology

StarChase technology

This technology isn’t cheap. Each unit costs $5,000 — which includes installation, training and unlimited GPS projectiles, plus a yearly maintenance fee for upgrades.

“I’m grateful the chief is interested in using police asset forfeiture. These are dollars that we have confiscated from drug dealers and bad guys,” Common Council President Michael Murphy said.

Plant says StarChase fits into the department’s strategy of restrictive police pursuits since 2010.

“After a rash of high-profile incidents where innocent people were killed by people who were either fleeing police or driving recklessly away from police,” Plant said.

Plant also told the committee that the purchasing office will get the contract to the vendor for signatures by Friday.

The company will deliver almost two dozen units, install them, and train officers over the next several weeks.