Police vehicle pursuits are among the most dangerous activities that law enforcement officers participate in. An agency owes it to the officers participating in the pursuit and the community to reduce the dangers as much as possible. The reduction in danger begins with the pursuit policy.
Any policy should reflect the particular needs and concerns of the specific agency and community, but there are several sections that should exist in every written pursuit policy:
Definitions: Each officer should have a clear understanding of the terminology in the pursuit policy. A definition section should clarify this terminology.
Initiation: When, where and how a pursuit can begin is a very important aspect of a pursuit policy.
Evaluation: A pursuit is a series of evolving events. The decision-making process continues, and the decision to start a pursuit is just the beginning of that process. Officers must continually evaluate such factors as the weather, traffic, speeds, driving of the suspect, crime(s) committed, familiarity with the area and the time of day. As these factors change, the decision to continue a pursuit must be reevaluated.
Termination: When an officer should end a pursuit should be explained in great detail.
Communication: Specific guidelines should be set forth as to who has the responsibility of communicating during a pursuit.
Tactics: When or not to initiate a specific pursuit tactic should be clearly explained. Whether it’s PIT, tire deflation devices, roadblocks or use of force, the policy must address these issues.
Supervisor: The responsibilities of a supervisor in a pursuit should be clearly stated.
Post pursuit: What happens at the end of a pursuit can be just as dangerous, if not more, than the pursuit itself. The scene should be controlled and the suspect apprehended in a safe, professional manner.
After-action report: Each pursuit should be documented and properly evaluated by superiors to improve future training and actions.
Training: Training must play an important role in the pursuit policy. Pursuit actions by officers must not occur unless they have been properly trained, and that training should occur on a regular basis.
While the beginning of safer vehicle pursuits is the policy, safety must continue through sound training and a culture that embraces that safety.
FYI: Approximately 200 free seminars are being sponsored by IADLEST and ALERT International to encourage discussion of pursuit policies and their effectiveness.
Travis Yates is a captain with the Tulsa (Okla.) Police Department and supervises the department’s precision driving unit. He received Law Officer magazine’s Trainer of the Year award this spring. His Web site, www.policedriving.com, is dedicated to EVOC.