Report for the National Pursuit Steering Group
Motorcycles – Pursuit and Tactics
This report considers the tactical options available to stopping motor cycles by the use
of hollow spike tyre deflation devices (HoSTYDS).
The police service has developed a high degree of risk aversion or ineffectiveness in
respect of dealing with motor cycle community problems or pursuits. As a result a
number of incidents where the paralysis of the police in respect of dealing with
criminals using motorcycles has been exposed.
Recent examples of the extensive use of motor cycles engaged in serious criminal
activity and in anti social behaviour have been highlighted in BBC and other media
coverage which highlights some of the problems facing the police. Operational
examples of these problems are wide ranging, with examples from the Metropolitan,
Merseyside, Greater Manchester and others.
This situation follows the understandable perceived logic that tactics to stop motor
cyclists, other than in a close range confinement tactic, such as boxing, are too
dangerous to the rider and should not be attempted.
The risk to the rider of applying pursuit tactics or resolution is far too often given greater
consideration or priority than the risk that offending riders may pose to other road
Rising trends have resulted in criminal groups getting bolder in their approach
and social media being used to organise large group gatherings on motor
cycles to create havoc, mayhem and obvious high risk situations to other road
This necessitates a different approach to dealing with these problems.
The public perception of the police service ‘standing back’ and allowing such activity
to continue, without considering initiatives to engage the subject and machine is
something that has to be re-considered.
The risks of motor cycle pursuits are well recognised. However these risks are not
directly proportionate to the additional risks under normal driving conditions. Additional
risks are generally confined to the riders of offending motorcycles, and there should
be no more risk to the police or members of the public than any other pursuit.
In the interests of public assurance and Police effectiveness in dealing with high risk
and serious criminal offences committed involving motorcycles, the decision to explore
the use of HoSTYDS stopping devices against motorcycle tyres was commissioned by
the NPCC leads for pursuits and driver training. Tests have been carried out to
establish the effect such hollow spike devices have on motor cycle tyres and the
resultant handling characteristics of the machine.
The rationale for this testing follows exhaustive consideration of other options in
consultation with the Home Office Centre of Applied Science and Technology (CAST).
Current policy in relation to pursuit of motorcycles is informed by the Authorised
Professional Practice (APP) and police pursuits tactics directory.
The APP is a public document, whilst the tactics directory is a restricted police
operational manual only.
The following is taken from the pursuits APP:
There may be a public interest in engaging motorcycles and quads in pursuits. Where
such vehicles are used to facilitate serious crime or used repeatedly as the mode of
transport for organised crime groups then, to minimise risk to the public from criminality
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and to secure public confidence in policing, a pursuit may be justified. Careful
consideration must be given to the risks involved and the NDM must be applied in the
decision making process.
Historically, commentary from the IPCC was used as a barometer favouring caution.
The IPPC stated the following:
“We believe that pursuits of motorcycles can be very dangerous as the rider is much
more vulnerable than a driver or occupant of a car, and the tactical options for bringing
the pursuit to an end are very limited. Currently the danger is that officers initiate a
pursuit, and without any tactics available to end it simply wait until ‘something
happens’. We therefore believe that these pursuits should be limited to instances
where a serious crime has been committed and that ACPO should seek to define this
more clearly in future revisions to the Pursuit Guidelines. If a situation arises where
due to public safety it is absolutely necessary for the police to pursue a motorcyclist,
we believe that if possible a police helicopter should be deployed to take control of the
pursuit and allow the police vehicle on the ground to pull back. This might help to limit
the risks the motorcyclist will take to avoid capture and ensure a safer resolution of the
pursuit.” (Docking et al, 2007 p.17)
Risks of Pursuits Involving Motorcycles
A trend can be seen over the last decade towards a reduction in police pursuit deaths
(Teers, 2014, p. 7). However there remains a number of fatalities each year.
04/05 05/06 06/07 07/08 08/09 09/10 10/11 11/12 12/13 13/14 14/15
Statistics show a KSI reduction from 1994 to 2013 of 58.8% reduction for cars (Keep
& Rutherford, 2013), with similar or greater reductions for pedestrians, LGVs and
PSVs. However, over the same time period, there has only been a 14.8% reduction for
motorbikes. Statistics from the US presented by Lin & Kraus (2009, p.711) suggest per
mile travelled under normal conditions, motorcyclists are 34 times more likely to be
killed and 8 times more likely to be injured than those using other vehicles, however it
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must be remembered that this is under normal driving conditions, which as discussed
later, are different to pursuit conditions.
When actually involved in a collision, riders are 3 times more likely to be killed or
seriously injured than drivers. Carter et al (2014) identify that those not wearing
helmets are 2.8 times more likely to be fatally injured in a collision. However, caution
must be taken when referring to these figures, as attention is drawn to numerous
differences that make these not like for like statistics. For example, types of use (social
and enthusiast use at speed more prevalent with motorcycles rather than commuter
use), age and inexperience, alcohol use, all go some way to offsetting the headline
Wells and Falcone (1997, p.744) in reviewing several research studies surrounding
pursuits situations, identified that around 25% of pursuits ended in a collision,
regardless of vehicle type. This suggests that while the outcome of a collision in a
pursuit situation are statistically significantly more severe for the rider when involved
in a collision, unlike in normal road use conditions, a motorcycle is not necessarily
more likely to actually be involved in a collision during pursuit.
No evidence could be found to suggest a higher risk to other members of the public or
police from motorcycle pursuits. A logical argument could be that if collision rates in
pursuits are similar, due to the lighter weight and smaller dimensions of a motorcycle,
it is likely to be less injurious to other members of the public, and impacts with other
vehicles less likely to cause harm to the occupants of other vehicles. Equally, with a
motorcycle, all occupants of the subject vehicle are in plain view, eliminating the risk
of inadvertently putting at risk unknown occupants of a pursued vehicle, such as in the
case of a car which could contain a child unbeknownst to pursuing officers.
It should be recognised that although difficult to quantify, there have been significant
developments in pursuit training including decision-making and command and control.
Changes in Vehicle Crime
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Over recent decades, the theft of vehicles in general, and the use of them in further
crime, has altered significantly:
“There is a common misconception that vehicle theft as a whole has remained
unchanged in recent times, but nothing could be further from the truth. Vehicle theft
has changed dramatically over the past decade; the who, the what, the where, the
when, the how, and especially the why of vehicle theft are all complex questions. Gone
are the days of encountering simple cases involving teenage joyriders who take a
vehicle for an hour or two and then abandon it in a dimly lit parking lot. Today, vehicle
theft is high technology and involves sophisticated transnational vehicle theft rings that
target particular makes and models of vehicles for various reasons.” (McDonold, 2011,
Between 2000 and 2009 in the US, vehicle thefts swung heavily towards being a crime
committed by adults, from 58% to 75% (McDonold, 2011, p.40), indicating more
organised thieves rather than joy riders. Vehicle use facilitates much modern crime.
Cash and Valuables in Transit (CViT) robberies almost invariably utilise stolen vehicles
and cloned number plates (Jill Dando Institute, 2011).
It is common knowledge amongst those wishing to evade the police that policy
prevents pursuit of motorcycles. Media has often identified this, both to the general
public but also to criminals, with examples from within GMP of thieves making off on
stolen motorcycles not being pursued due to policy (BBC, 2010). A Google search
reveals numerous forum posts on motorcycle forums suggesting that to prevent being
chased, riders should throw their helmets away if police attempt to stop them (Pit Bike
Club, 2012; Bike Chat Forums, 2012). However, this also demonstrates the willingness
of some who are committing minor document offences to exploit this, and highlights
the need to ensure proportionality is always considered.
Thefts of motorcycles have reduced slightly, with statistics from the Metropolitan Police
area showing a reduction from 9683 in 2007 to 8558 in 2011 (Metropolitan Police,
2012), however, around the country motorcycles are being increasingly used for
serious crime, such as burglaries, street robberies and high value commercial
robberies, particularly cash in transit robberies, presumably due in part to their
manoeuvrability and speed, but also in part due to the knowledge that police are
heavily restricted when considering pursuit of motorcycles. In addition to this financial
cost, victims of crime suffer physical and psychological harm. Wainer and Summers
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(2011) found that 30% of cash in transit robberies resulted in injury to a victim, with 8%
being serious GBH level injuries.
In Manchester City Centre, one jewellers was targeted twice within a week by a team
using a moped to steal over £165k of watches (Keeling, 2015), similar to a string of
robberies in London netting as much as £500k each time (Tran, 2014). These types of
robberies, along with street robberies such as a violent series in Cheetham Hill
(Bainbridge, 2014) are escalating with the use of motorcycles. These prevent
significant challenges under current National pursuit policy, as when opportunities are
presented to police in such notoriously difficult to detect cases in the form of sightings
of offenders, police are restricted in their actions.
A further emerging threat is the use of motorcycles in serious disorder and anti-social
behaviour. Within GMP, groups riding large numbers of unlicensed motorcycles
dangerously through built up and city centre areas has demonstrated a “show of
power” by OCGs within the city, aware that police are limited in their actions. While
there is immediate risk to the public by these actions, there is also a threat to public
confidence in policing, as by failing to consider appropriate and proportionate tactics
to address incidents like this shows a propensity towards accepting lawless behaviour.
As reported recently in the National press, the funeral of Clarence “Clay” Edwards,
affiliated to the Moss Side Doddington OCG (Britton, 2013) was followed by OCG
members taking to the streets on over 100 off road bikes, mostly not registered, without
helmets, causing serious disorder. For several hours riders rode at speed through
estates, shopping centres, along pavements and the wrong way down dual
carriageways (Wheatstone, 2015). While initially given leeway due to the sensitivities
of the funeral, as the bikers left the area and continued disorder, and rode dangerously
despite the lack of police presence, only being monitored by the Police Helicopter, a
decision was made to utilise tactics to contain the motorcycles. While not pursued, pre-
emptive stinger deployments and contact at low speed were utilised to detain several
Balancing Human Rights and Public Expectations
The crux of the argument surrounding motorcycle pursuits is that of public expectation.
On the one hand, the public expect that the police will take action to prevent crime and
apprehend criminals, and on the other hand they expect protection for individuals and
for the police not to impose danger onto citizens. The mainstream media have
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presented articles criticising both the policy of not pursuing criminals on motorbikes
(BBC, 2010 & 2015) and police handling of incidents where motorcycles have been
pursued and fatality occurred (Manchester Evening News, 2010).
Article 2 of the Human Rights Act presents a positive duty to prevent foreseeable loss
of life. To engage in a pursuit which is overly dangerous potentially reaches the
threshold where loss of life is foreseeable. However, when the pursuit, which in itself
can be seen as a use of force, is the only means of affecting an arrest, and the pursuit
is proportionate, a loss of life will not be seen as a contravention of the Act. In balance
to this, there is a need to prevent serious crime and protect potential future victims of
the offenders. To allow potentially dangerous offenders to continue unabated risks
allowing other foreseeable serious incidents to occur.
In 2014, GMP recorded 8 pursuits with the subject vehicle a motorcycle. None
continued beyond 2 minutes, with one rider stopping almost immediately, two being
lost soon after the pursuit began, and five being terminated by control or the police
driver due a lack of proportionality. Of these five, four were stolen vehicles, and in one
a helicopter was 30 seconds away when terminated, with the subject vehicle travelling
at speeds below 30 mph. National statistics indicate very low numbers of motorcycle
pursuits, this inaccurately represents the number of encounters with motorcycles,
simply as police officers take no action when a motorcycle fails to stop and thus no
pursuit is recorded.
Public expectation, given the circumstances would be to pursue until the helicopter
was in a position to take over, and adequate tactics should be available to reflect this.
Current tactics are in need of review to offer guidance and protection to officers making
decisions to pursue, when adequately justified.
Alternatives and Tactics for Pursuit
It is clear that tactics used to end a motorcycle pursuit are generally higher risk than
when employed against other vehicles, and as highlighted in the IPCC report of
Docking et al (2007), to pursue until “something happens” without tactical options is
not acceptable and should not occur. However, as with any pursuit, a reasonable time
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should be allowed to develop tactics and begin implementation. The use of air support
is clearly a viable option as it prevents a physical intervention with the subject
motorcycle, and this was advocated by Docking et al.
Martin (2001) reports on a study of police helicopter crews, when a helicopter got a
vantage point above a pursuit and ground patrols disengaged, 50% of suspects
continued to drive dangerously, the decision to drive in this way apparently
independent of the actions of the police. The remaining 50% continued on average for
a further 90 seconds before slowing and reducing danger to members of the public.
Alpert and McDonald (1997) conducted a study in Baltimore and Metro-Dade,
concluding that the helicopter provided an effective alternative pursuit. Once in place,
ground crews terminated, the helicopter directing ground crews in once the vehicle
was parked, or in 75% of cases abandoned. In Baltimore, once in position the
helicopter demonstrated an 83% success rate, in Miami-Dade 91%, demonstrating a
strong case for terminating ground pursuit once air support is in place in all but the
most serious cases. Other, more intrusive tactics such as use of HOSTYDs and tactical
contact do require further assessment on a case by case basis, but with a less
restrictive policy, this could be assessed and documented by the relevant people using
the National Decision Model by considering the use of appropriate stopping tactics.
Equally, it could be argued that use of tactics to either pre-empt a pursuit or at the early
stages of a pursuit where they could be implemented at a low speed could reduce risk
of serious harm to the subject. While this may reduce harm to the subject vehicle rider,
under controlled conditions this is likely to be a lot less severe than if a collision were
to occur further into a pursuit at speed, effectively utilising ‘use of force’ in detaining
the offender, protecting the public from danger and also protecting the subject from the
risk posed by the subject to him/herself.
While there is a duty to protect the subjects we pursue, there is also a duty to prevent
the harm they potentially pose to others. Where a rider is involved in, or suspected to
be involved in, serious crime and there are suitable tactics in place, pre-emptive tactics
or a pursuit may be proportionate.
Evidence using hollow spike devices on motor cycles:
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In furtherance of seeking an understanding of the results of using ‘Stinger’ and ‘Stop
‘Stick devices’ to penetrate motor cycle tyres and the potential for using such devices
as part of a tactical option to stop motorcycles, tests were carried out under the
direction of the NPCC lead for pursuits and driver training.
These tests were carried out on the 23rd June 2015 at the St Athan military campus in
South Wales and on the 3rd and 8th July 2015 over a section of high quality road, used
dual carriageway junc 3 M18, Doncaster
Appended is a list of those officers and staff involved in the testing regime and
photographs and video footage is appended at relevant parts within the record of
Allowing a less restrictive policy relating to motorcycles, balanced by control measures
to ensure only truly proportionate pursuits are authorised, then with sufficient training,
and accurately documented decision making, the public expectation to attempt to catch
criminals can be met, while still ensuring that the risk created is no more than is
It is recognised that there is significant additional risk when pursuing motorcycles,
however it is identified that the additional risk in pursuit situations is not directly
proportionate to the additional risk under normal driving conditions. Additional risks are
generally contained to the riders of a motorcycle, and should be no more risk to the
police or members of the public than any other pursuit, in fact probably less.
Tactical options authorising the use of HoSTyDS devices against motorcycle tyres is
being reviewed, providing the requirements set out in the pursuits tactics directory are
There are other tactical options which are suitable for use on motorcycles and
mentioned in the tactics directory. Employing air support to allow withdrawal of pursuit
vehicles at the earliest opportunity remains an option, but where other tactical options
can be applied to end the pursuit, these must be considered where obvious danger or
risk is paramount to other road users, including the rider.
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The use of pre-emptive tactics are likely to reduce the risks of a later pursuit, although
present their own risk of injury, although due to lower speeds are likely to result in less
Contributing authors of this report and supporting papers are:
Ch Insp Mark
Dexter Gt Manchester Police, Insp Craig Clifton South Yorkshire Police – NPCC staff
officer (pursuits) Alan Jones NPCC RP Trg & Pursuits. Dr Paul Harrison (Home Office
Those involved in the testing programme are thanked for their contribution which has
been invaluable in the understanding and learning of the effect of rapid deflation of
motor cycle tyres.
Special thanks to the riders, Gareth Morgan (South Wales) Pc Kevin Harper and Pc
Ricard Tordoff (both South Yorkshire).
Additional thanks to Insp Craig Clifton (South Yorks) Alan Jones (NPCC RP Trg), Ch
Insp Mark Dexter (Gt Manchester) Dr Paul Harrison (Home Office CAST) for his
excellent scientific contribution and results analysis, to Andy Beck (Californian super
bike school) for the loan of his motor cycle, to Chris Lloyd of South Wales tyre repairs,
for supplying the tyres and replacing punctured tyres throughout the test, to Dr Rob
Dawes South Wales emergency crash team (medical support), Tony Eadon Managing
director Spanset Ltd (UK supplier of stinger devices) ACO Mark Milton (NPCC lead for
driver training), Mick Trosh (NPCC ITS) DCC Andy Holt (NPCC lead police pursuits).
The following are acknowledged as having provided support to the testing programme:
Sgt Tristian Knight (Met) Mick Trosh (NPCC RESTORE) Lloyd Hanley, Pc Keith
Williams (South wales), Bob Ward (Wilts), Pc Simon Briscoe Richards (South Wales
driver trg). Thanks also to the South Wales and the Yorkshire group media team (Craig
Hargreaves and Paul Downs) for their recording and editing of the DVD footage.
Alpert, G., & McDonald, J. (1997). Helicopters and Their Use in Police Pursuit: National
Institute of Justice.
Bainbridge, P. (2014). Robbers on motorbikes target five women in violent robberies.
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BBC. (2010). Helmet-free motorbike thieves not pursued by police. Retrieved 02/02/15
Bike Chat Forums. (2012). Are police allowed to chase motorbikes? Retrieved
18/01/15, from http://www.bikechatforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=245683
Britton, P. (2013). Twelve men jailed after man stabbed to death in nightclub - but killer
may never be known Manchester Evening News
. Retrieved from
Carter, P., Flannagan, C., Buckley, L., Rupp, J., Cicchino, J., & Bingham, C. (2014).
Motorcycle Crash Helmet Use and Injuries Following Repeal of Michigan's
Motorcycle Helmet Law.
Paper presented at the APHA 142nd Annual
Conference, New Orleans.
College of Policing. (2014). Police Pursuits. Retrieved 26/02/14, from
Docking, M., Bucke, T., Grace, K., & Dady, H. (2007). Police Road Traffic Incidents: A
Study of Cases Involving Serious and Fatal Injuries. London, UK: IPCC.
Jill Dando Institute. (2011). Written evidence from the Jill Dando Institute of Security
and Crime Science.
Keeling, N. (2015). Watch: Dramatic CCTV of watches smash and grab raid.
Keep, M., & Rutherford, T. (2013). Reported Road Accident Statistics.
Lin, M., & Kraus, J. (2009). A review of risk factors and patterns of motorcycle injuries.
Accident analysis and prevention, 41
Manchester Evening News. (2010). Daughter of biker Alan Long "disgusted over Police
Martin, J. (2001). Pursuit Termination. Law and Order, 49
McDonold, C. (2011). The Changing Face of Vehicle Theft. The Police Chief, 78
Metropolitan Police. (2012). A count of certain motor vehicle types reported either
stolen or damaged to the Metropolitan Police Service.
Teers, R. (2014). Deaths during or following police contact: Statistics for England and
Wales 2013/14 London, UK: IPCC.
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Tran, M. (2014). Thieves on mopeds and motorbike in Knightsbridge Rolex robbery.
Wainer, L., & Summers, L. (2011). Understanding the harms of Cash and Valuables in
Transit (CViT) Robbery. London, UK: LSE.
Wells, L., & Falcone, D. (1997). Research on police pursuits: Advantages of multiple
data collection strategies. Policing, 20
Wheatstone, R. (2015). Widespread disorder, arrests and seized bikes in aftermath of
murdered biker Clarence Edwards' funeral. Mirror
. Retrieved from
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