“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. Zero-230 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?”
“10-4. I’m still a few miles away … Wait, I think they’re … Yeah … Yeah, they’re making a right … Stand by and I’ll give you a better 10-20 … Okay, we’re turning right … Oh, God! … I’m …”
Suddenly the radio goes silent.
No response from the officer.
There are basic rules to follow when engaged in a high-speed pursuit. One of the major details 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 pursuing officer is sure too follow. It happens, 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.
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?
1 – Always, always, always call for back up. There can never be too many officers on hand. There’s safety in numbers, right?
2 – Maintain a safe distance between the patrol car and the suspect’s vehicle even when stopping. Allow enough room to maneuver, including backing up, if necessary.
3 – 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.
4 – The officer should have his/her weapon in a ready position before the patrol car comes to a stop.
5 – Use whatever cover is available. Stay safe until backup arrives, even if that means to retreat. This is not the time to be a hero!
6 – Always be strong and forceful with verbal commands. “Get out of the car, now!”
7 – Distract the occupants of the vehicle with verbal commands while a partner or backup approaches from the side, in a flanking maneuver.
8 – 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.
9 – 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 thugs be stopped while making a delivery, or escape.
10 – Avoid bad habits, such as not wearing seatbelts, following too closely unless preparing for a PIT maneuver, assuming nothing bad will happen, etc.
You Will Survive!
Above all, always, always, always maintain a positive attitude. You Will Survive!