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Putting an End to Pursuit Collisions

Putting an End to Pursuit Collisions

Travis Yates / PoliceDriving.com

A Law Enforcement Pursuit is one of the most dangerous performance skills that a police officer can do. In recent years there have been drastic changes with department pursuit policies and training. Although many states require some form of training in reference to pursuits, several do not.

There are four issues that are causing one third of all pursuits around the United States to end in a collision and around one percent to end in death or serious injury.

  • There is a lack of training.
  • There is a lack of an effective pursuit policy.
  • There is a lack of utilizing the proper technology.
  • An improper mentality.

Training

There is no question that training should be mandatory on a yearly basis. It would be unheard of to not require officers to qualify each year with their service handgun. Vehicles are a deadly weapon and are currently killing police at an alarming rate. In 2007 more officers were killed in vehicle incidents than in any other year and so far in 2008 there have been 12 deaths, a 200% increase from the same time last year.

Mandatory training that is required in most basic academies is a start but what about the fifteen-year veteran that has not been given any additional driver or pursuit training? The typical police officer is given a 2-5 day school in their basic academy on driving. Maybe 4-8 hours of that was spent on pursuit training. With the inundation of modern academy information, does that training block on pursuits come into play five to ten years later when the officer is involved in the real deal? Driving, just like firearm proficiency is a diminished skill. Without continued practice and training, you will lose the skills that you were taught in the academy.

The State of California has taken measures to correct the training deficiency currently present in many police departments. The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training requires that an officer take four-hours of driver training every 24 months. This is a legislative requirement and a very good model for other states and police departments to follow. There have been similar mandates in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Florida with many individual agencies mandating training to their officers on a regular basis well beyond the basic academy. This is a good start but we must keep pushing for regular training in driving until every officer in America is included.

Policy

Many police departments do not have an effective policy on pursuits. A pursuit policy should be specific, have accountability, and place supervisors in independent roles as monitors. The current trend in progressive departments is to have restrictive policies on pursuits (i.e. violent felonies). This is effective in reducing collisions and deaths with pursuits but many communities and agencies are timid in letting many criminals go when they fail to stop for the police. One thing is for certain; the apprehension of a suspect in a pursuit must outweigh the danger it is creating to the public. A sound pursuit policy must be completely understood and followed to be effective.

Technology

Police Departments are also failing to take advantage of adequate technology when it comes to pursuits. There are many items that can assist an officer in managing a police pursuit.

Tire Deflation Devices are designed to deflate vehicle tires in a controlled manner. Although they will not cause a suspect to stop, they will force the vehicle to a much slower speed, which will increase the safety aspects of a pursuit. An agency not providing these devices to every police officer is simply proliferating one of the most dangerous aspects of police work. The use of these devices must come with consistent and quality training.

Helicopters are being utilized in many jurisdictions as a safe means to pursue suspects. The helicopter can pursue the vehicle safely from the air and the ground units can follow a safe distance behind waiting for the violator to stop. In the majority of the pursuits, the violator will slow down and stop their vehicle shortly after they do not see lights and siren. Once the driver has exited the car on foot, the helicopter can advise the ground units of the suspect’s location. Although this has been effective, there are suspects that continue to drive very fast and reckless regardless of police presence. Due to that, additional measures are necessary in combating police pursuits.

The Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) is the current hot topic in pursuit technology. The cost is minimal and the training is relatively easy to conduct. This is a tactic where the police touch their car to the back quarter panel of the violator. Once that occurs, the officer can turn into the suspect car, which causes a loss of tire traction. In 90% of the cases, the engine will shut down, stopping the pursuit. Although this technique is very effective, it can only be used in a small percentage of the pursuits. Conditions must be appropriate and the training must be excellent before it can be done successfully.

Mental Aspect

The mental aspect of a police pursuit is just as important as the skills needed by officers. Decisions must come at a time when adrenaline is pumping and with the environment constantly changing. Officers must ensure that despite the actions of the suspect, they must keep the safety of them, their fellow officers and the community first in their mind. Police administrators must have the correct mentality. They are by nature a reactive group that waits for bad things to happen prior to making the appropriate changes. Administrators must be proactive in implementing sound pursuit policies and training. They should spend money in an effort to obtain the adequate technology and training to protect the lives of their officers and citizens.

Captain Travis Yates commands the Precision Driver Training Unit with the Tulsa, Okla. Police Department. He is a nationally recognized driving instructor and a certified instructor in tire deflation devices and the pursuit intervention technique. Captain Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern State University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the owner of www.policedriving.com, a website dedicated to law enforcement driving issues.


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  • Parkside_crest_new_12-15-08_copy_max50

    mmarchesi

    over 3 years ago

    2686 Comments

    Helicopters are nice, but a luxury only large cities or County departments have. Most smaller or rural departments will never see a helicopter during their career, let alone a pursuit.
    In all my years I have never seen a violator slow down and obey the law when an officer terminates the pursuit. Only one car stops or slows down, and that is the officers car; the violator will continue to drive like an idiot until he feels he is totally safe from arrest.

  • Rcmp_max50

    Highland2010

    over 3 years ago

    128 Comments

    Keep your distance, should the going get rough back off and let a helicopter track them. Then move in when its safer. I think safety to the general public is more important then catching the guy. When your not chasing the criminal they are more likely to stop at red lights and stay on the road, decreasing risk to the civilians on the roadway, the officers and the suspect.

  • Parkside_crest_new_12-15-08_copy_max50

    mmarchesi

    over 3 years ago

    2686 Comments

    I agree with this article 100%; however, with all the budget cuts and even less training nowadays, especially in smaller departments.. it's easier for policy makers to say "no pursuits", then to train their officers to effectively deal with them.

    In the long run, it's a lose, lose situation. The police get frustrated, the bad guy gets away, and the community is put in harms way, both by the fleeing suspect, who we all know does not slow down after the officer terminates, and the fact that the actor is still among us instead of behind bars, only to violate again.
    Training and sound policy making is key. Now get the politicians to realize this, and we'll all be winners.

  • Img_5992_max50

    quattroA4

    over 3 years ago

    32 Comments

    Excellent excellent article. I agree with much stiffer penalties.

  • Img_1050_max50

    Irishcop1961

    almost 5 years ago

    46060 Comments

    Much stronger penaltes would also help.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    sgt0622mri

    almost 5 years ago

    84 Comments

    Excellent! A "no pursuit" policy is as bad as an "open" pursue for everything policy. When other measures may be taken to avoid pursuit the must be utilized. Laws must be enacted to strengthen the penalties for those who flee. The public must be trained to understand "if they don"t flee, we don't pursue

  • Native_clip_art_4_049_max50

    Sheriff_1

    almost 5 years ago

    8026 Comments

    Good work. Fantastic article. Good information

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 5 years ago

    Great Article!

  • Picture_040_max50

    FREDRICKFLORES

    over 5 years ago

    22 Comments

    THIS IS A GREAT ARTICLE

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    Mortimer

    almost 6 years ago

    150 Comments

    Excellant article, I'm going to share this with one of the Explorers I'm mentoring.

  • Pd_officers_martin_max50

    1shot1kill

    about 6 years ago

    78 Comments

    good info we all need

  • Presentation1_max50

    SpearheadMP

    about 6 years ago

    52 Comments

    "Shuffle Steer, hands at 11 and 1" I believe "Shuffle Steering" has saved my life 2 seperate incidences." Trafficdog, we teach this method as well. As I relate it to my students, "hands and wrists only, like your Friday night date". Then they understand it.

  • Ato_port_normal_max50

    JustAnotherPerez

    about 6 years ago

    160 Comments

    I like it. hey, if it is mandatory then good. because then they can pay me to go and better my driving performance anyways.

  • 031208_00401_1__max50

    trafficdog

    about 6 years ago

    530 Comments

    I have to agree with chief7111 stronger penalties need to be made for those who want to flee from any LEO. As far as the different driving abilities, I agree. However we as LEO's should always be concious of not getting "sucked in" to the bad driving of the suspect and remember the fundamentals of pursuit driving. "Shuffle Steer, hands at 11 and 1" I believe "Shuffle Steering" has saved my life 2 seperate incidences.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    chief7111

    about 6 years ago

    30 Comments

    I HAVE READ THIS ARTICLE AND AGREE WITH THIS ARTICLE. I WAS AN INSTRUCTOR FOR OVER 10 YEARS TEACHING POLICE DRIVING.
    ONE OF THE COMMENTS I HEARD OVER AND OVER IS, "IF WE STOP CHASING WHEN THEY RUN, MORE PEOPLE WILL FLEE". MY ANSWER HAS ALWAYS BEEN TO LOBBY FOR STRONGER PENALTIES FOR FLEEING AND ELUDING. i WOULD EVEN GO AS FAR AS POSSIBLE CONFISCATION OF THE VEHICLE.

    A POLICE OFFICER SPENDS A LOT OF THE SHIFT BEHIND THE WHEEL DRIVING UNDER ALL KINDS OF CONDITIONS. WHEN THE RED AND BLUE LIGHTS GO ON IT IS EASY TO THROW CAUTION OUT THE WINDOW. IN A PURSUIT IT SHOULD NEVER BECOME A CONTEST BETWEEN THE OFFICER AND THE SUSPECT, NEVER CHASE BECAUSE THE S.O.B. ISN'T GETTING AWAY FROM ME.

    REMEMBER WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT DRIVING ABILITIES AND LIMITATIONS. EVERY CAR DRIVES DIFFERENT AND THE VEHICLE LIMITATIONS CAN CHANGE FROM DAY TO DAY. EVEN A NEW ROAD CAN BECOME A NIGHTMARE WITH SOME OIL LEAKED ON IT FROM A CAR THAT WENT THAT WAY BEFORE YOU. DO YOUR JOB BUT, GO HOME AT THE END OF SHIFT.

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