On Star as an aid to law enforcement

The role of On Star, the road-side assistance and tracking program installed in some vehicles, caught my attention in this account from the Daily InterLake. The wife of a 70- year-old Helena man reported to police that he was missing and suicidal. Later that day, On Star contacted law enforcement in Flathead County — 180 miles away — and helped sheriff’s deputies locate the man’s vehicle. (To get there, he drove up the highway half a mile from my house.) He then led them on a chase around the southern edge of Glacier National Park, into Glacier County, and on to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, where he exchanged gunfire with officers and was killed.

On Star seems to have provided tracking assistance to both the Helena police and Flathead County sheriff. The report isn’t clear, but I suspect Helena police made the request to On Star, at the wife’s request and with her consent. While there may be constitutional privacy concerns in other cases, based on this report it appears to me to have been a good use of the technology.

Astute readers may ask why the FBI was involved. The shooting occurred on the reservation, where law enforcement is handled by a combination of state and federal authorities. (See the Q&A on jurisdiction in Books, Crooks & Counselors.)