“I’m stopping a vehicle on Highway 68 northbound, just past exit 142. Black Dodge Charger, Virginia registration T-Tango, X-X-ray, P-Paul, 444. Two occupants.”
“10-4, 2122. Do you want a 10-28, 29 on that vehicle?”
“Stand-by. 0730 hours.”
Thirty-nine seconds pass.
“10-99 on that vehicle. Vehicle was reported stolen in Ashland, Virginia. Driver’s wanted for an armed robbery of a convenience store in Richmond, Virginia. Suspect is armed with a dark colored, possibly black handgun. I’ve dispatched 2370 and 2447 to assist. ETA seven minutes. 0733 hours.”
“10-4. I’ll stay behind them until 2370 and 2447 arrive. Notify county and state. I’m getting pretty close to the line.”
“10-4. They each have someone en route.”
Two minutes pass.
“Shots fired! Shots fired! They’re running. I’m in pursuit! Northbound 68. We’re crossing the county line … excess of 80 mph. See if someone can get ahead of me with stop strips. We’re over 100 now and they’re all over the road. Where’s the county unit?”
“Stand by …”
Twenty seconds pass.
“2122, the county unit is headed your way southbound on 68. She’ll have stop strips in place at exit 156. 10-4? 0737 hours.”
“10-4. I’m still a few miles away … Wait, I think they’re … Yeah … Yeah, they’re making a right on … Stand by and I’ll give you a better 10-20 … Okay, we’re turning right … Oh, God! … I’m—”
“Attention all units. I’ve lost contact with 2122. Last known location just over the county line on Northbound 68. 2122 is in pursuit of a black Dodge Charger, Virginia registration T-Tango, X-X-ray, P-Paul, 444. Two occupants are wanted for an armed robbery of a convenience store in Richmond, Virginia. Vehicle is 10-99. The driver is armed with a dark-colored, possibly black handgun. ”
Still no response.
The radio silence that follows the dispatcher’s desperate call is nothing short of deafening, and heartbreaking.
Pursuit Rules of Thumb
There are basic rules to follow when engaged in a vehicle pursuit. One of the first things officers should remember from their nighttime driver-training is to never follow the vehicle they’re pursuing too closely. And never ever fixate on the brake and taillights lights of that vehicle.
Sure, it’s easy to use those lights as a beacon; however, if the suspect isn’t familiar with the area and misses a curve, or runs off an embankment, the officer who’s using taillights as a guide, is sure to follow those lights all the way to the bottom of the cliff or other crash site.
Yes, it happens and with devastating consequences. Therefore, officers are trained to follow at a safe distance. Remember, the bad guys could possibly outrun a police car, but they can’t outrun a police radio. There are always plenty of cops available in the next county, town, and state.
Still, adrenaline, a dreaded bout of tunnel vision, and sometimes the “superman” effect” where the officer, especially an inexperienced rookie, feels 10-feet tall and bulletproof, takes over an officer’s thought processes which renders moot all common sense and acquired knowledge and training.
But what happens if all goes well with the pursuit and the car eventually stops? The suspect ran for a reason, right? These are very dangerous traffic stops, so what steps should officers take to ensure their safety?
- Always, always, always call for back up. There can never be too many officers on hand. There’s safety in numbers, right?
- Maintain a safe distance between the patrol car and the suspect’s vehicle even when stopping. Allow enough room to maneuver, and even back up (retreat), if necessary. An ambush is a very real possibility these days.
- Angle the patrol car so that the engine block is between the officer and the suspect. Bullets normally can’t pass through the thick metal (see photo below).
- The officer should have his/her weapon in a ready position before the patrol car comes to a stop.
- Use whatever cover is available. Anything is better than nothing at all. Stay safe until backup arrives, even if that means to retreat. Again, ambushes are not uncommon. This is not the time to be a hero!
- Always be strong and forceful with verbal commands. “Get out of the car, now!”
- Distract the occupants of the vehicle with verbal commands while a partner or backup approaches from the opposite side, in a flanking maneuver.
- Use bright lighting to the officer’s advantage. Blind the suspect by shining the spotlight and takedown lights into their eyes and rear view mirrors.
- Use caution while clearing the car of any hidden suspects who may be hiding in the floorboard or trunk. (It’s a good idea, when approaching any car, for the officer to place his/her hand on the trunk lid. If it’s open, press it closed). Drug dealers and other criminals have been known to hide bodyguards/shooters inside the trunk. They do so for the purpose of assassinating police officers should the bad guys be stopped while in the process of committing a crime or fleeing from custody, etc.
Writers’ Police Academy – The Ultimate Hands-On Training Event for Writers
The Writers’ Police Academy is dedicated to provided actual hands-on police training in realistic settings, such as at active police academies and in top forensics facilities such as Sirchie’s fantastic compound and crime scene equipment manufacturing facility.
The Writers” Police Academy program is designed to activate the senses so that writers can in turn transfer the sights, sounds, touches, smells, and even tastes they experienced while participating in the numerous workshops and sessions.
PIT Maneuver Training
For example, a writer’s work-in-progress involves a pursuit where the officer performs a PIT maneuver in order to stop a fleeing criminal. Well, we teach writers how to safely execute the technique and then place our attendees behind the wheel where they’ll perform the maneuver in real time.
The video below is of bestselling author Tami Hoag performing a PIT maneuver at the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy. The event was held at the Public Safety Academy on the campus of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College(NWTC) in Green Bay, Wisconsin.