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Law Enforcement Pursuits: Managing The Risks (Part 2)


Many Police Departments are failing to take advantage of available technology when it comes to pursuits. There are many items that can assist an officer in managing a police pursuit. Tire deflation devices, helicopters and intervention techniques are just some of the technological methods available to assist law enforcement agencies in reducing the risks associated with police pursuits.

Tire Deflation Devices are designed to deflate vehicle tires in a controlled manner. Although they will not cause a suspect to stop, tire deflation devices have proven to reduce the overall speed and length of a department's police pursuits. The management of these two aspects is a must to decrease the overall danger of a police pursuit.

A recent study by the Jacksonville, Fla. Police Department revealed that although one-half of their units have tire deflation devices, only 13 percent of pursuits ended with their use. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Oklahoma City Police Department have placed Stop Sticks in every vehicle. Both agencies credit this device with slowing and ending many of their police pursuits.

The cost of tire deflation units are under $400. That is a very small price to pay in an effort to reduce the risks and liability that pursuits pose to citizens and officers.

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.

Research has shown that in the vast majority of situations, a suspect eluding law enforcement officers will either drive within the traffic flow or abandon their vehicle once the police are no longer chasing them. In the majority of the pursuits, the violator will slow down and stop their vehicle shortly after they no longer see police vehicles. Once the driver has exited the car, the helicopter can advise the ground units of the suspect's location.

The Tulsa, Okla. Police Department currently uses this method and has confirmed this research.

An officer in a helicopter can also see streets and intersections well ahead of the pursuit. This is important because it can inform the pursuing officer and monitoring supervisor of future hazards that may arise.

Although the use of helicopters in police pursuits has been effective, there are suspects that will continue to drive very fast and recklessly regardless of a police presence. Due to that fact, additional measures are necessary in combating police pursuits.

The Pursuit Intervention Technique (P.I.T.) or Tactical Vehicle Intervention (T.V.I.) is currently the hot topic in pursuit techniques. 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 and accelerate, which causes a loss of tire traction. In 90 percent of the cases, the engine will shut down, stopping the pursuit. Unfortunately, this technique is severely misunderstood by officers and administrators.

Police pursuits depicted on television and the vehicle ramming techniques employed in the past have contributed to a clouded view of this precision-driving maneuver. Many Oklahoma agencies have begun to use this technique with success including the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Sand Springs Police Department and Midwest City Police.

When conditions are appropriate, the pursuit intervention technique is a very effective method in ending a police pursuit. Despite the proven success of restrictive policies and pursuit technology, the correct mental aspect of a police pursuit is a requirement in managing the risks involved.

Mental Aspect

Some police administrators do not have the correct mentality about police pursuits. It often takes media pressure or a negative incident before changes are made in pursuit practices. Administrators must be proactive in implementing sound pursuit policies and training. They should spend money in an effort to obtain the adequate technology to protect the lives of their officers and citizens. Police administrators should make a conscious effort to reduce the risks involved in pursuits before civil litigation or public pressure forces them to do so.

In addition, some police officers do not have the correct mentality when it comes to pursuits. The pursuit of criminal activity is at the very heart of what a police officer wants to do. An officer must be conditioned to keep emotion out of the vehicle pursuit process. The "contempt of cop" mentality is prevalent during pursuits and often times catching the suspect supersedes basic safety premises. Having the proper mindset and making good decisions go hand in hand when engaging in a police pursuit.

Police pursuits will always bring an element of danger to the police and community. That danger can be reduced and the risk managed through the implementation of a proper policy, professional training programs and the effective use of available technology.

Additional Resources

ALERT International -
Dr. Geoffrey Alpert -
Stop Stick, Ltd. -
Officer Down Memorial Page -
California POST -
Minnesota POST -

Captain Travis Yates is a Team Leader with the Tulsa, Okla. Police Law Enforcement Driver Training Unit. He is a nationally recognized driving instructor and a certified instructor in tire deflation devices and the pursuit intervention technique. Capt. Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern State University. He moderates, a website dedicated to law enforcement driving issues.

In addition to his duties with the Police Driving Site, Yates also owns, a web hosting business dedicated to assisting law enforcement officers with hosting their websites. Contact Capt. Yates to hear about special police rates at: [email protected]
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