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Brainpower Not Horsepower: Teaching Officers When and How to End Pursuits

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 51 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2003 Pages: 85-89
Wayne Daniels; Lynnette Spratley
Date Published
July 2003
5 pages
This article explains how law enforcement officers should be trained both in the knowledge and practice of departmental pursuit policy.
To assess whether officers understand and can properly apply departmental pursuit policy to a variety of situations, they should be given hypothetical pursuits to analyze. Knowledge of pursuit policy must be followed by conditioning in what an officer should be considering in his/her mind while chasing a fleeing vehicle. Throughout a pursuit, the officer should be thinking about and planning strategies for safely ending the pursuit. In situations in which the only responsible decision is for the officer to halt the fleeing vehicle, the officer must decide where, when, and how to conclude the chase with minimal risk to the public, himself/herself, and the suspect. Further, officers must be trained to assess the various factors that bear upon the wisdom and danger of the pursuit, such as the characteristics of the road or roads taken by the suspect, the traffic patterns and volume, and weather. A properly trained officer will react constantly to the rapidly changing conditions of a pursuit and continually assess the potential dangers of continuing the pursuit. Further, officers must become adept at mentally constructing various possible pursuit scenarios in their jurisdictions, mentally placing a variety of unknown, unpredictable, and dangerous drivers on the roads with which the officer is familiar. Officers should be encouraged to practice describing these practice pursuits aloud. Thus, in a real-life pursuit, the officer will be more likely to make a verbal record of the circumstances that may prove valuable later. Also, officers must be trained in how and when to use the many tools and skills available for disabling a suspect's vehicle prior to a lengthy and increasingly dangerous pursuit. This includes the deployment of "stop sticks" to flatten the suspect's tires and the use of the pursuit intervention technique (PIT) maneuver to spin the suspect's vehicle to a stop. This article explains how and when these various tools and techniques should be used.