Sunday, February 05, 2006

Grieving dad who pushed for safer cop pursuits dies


For most of his life, Jim Phillips was known as a hardware man. But his advocacy for safer police pursuits defined the last years of his life.

Phillips, 57, died Friday after an apparent heart attack at his Winter Park home, friends and relatives said.

In December 2001, Phillips' life changed after his oldest daughter, Sarah, a nursing student, was killed when a driver being chased by a deputy sheriff struck the young woman's vehicle.

Since her death, Phillips relentlessly pleaded with law-enforcement agencies to change their pursuit policies, starting with the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

"This is my life's mission. This is what I'm going to do: to give her death some meaning," Phillips told a reporter shortly after he settled a wrongful-death suit with the department. "She was killed before she had a chance to make a difference."

In 2003, the Sheriff's Office tightened its policies. Phillips turned his attention to the Orlando Police Department, which also responded. In time, he became a vocal leader for stricter guidelines nationwide.

He created a Web site -- http://www.pursuitwatch.org/ -- where he listed national stories and policies regarding high-speed pursuits. Phillips wrote that his goal wasn't to eliminate pursuits, but to make them safer.
Jim was a frequent guest on The Pat Campbell show. He was a class act trying to make a difference in the world. He took his own personal tragedy and made it his life's mission to change things so that other families wouldn't have to suffer a senseless loss. The world is a bit emptier today as we mourn his passing. Who will carry his torch? To his wife Patti, our condolences and prayers.

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