Law enforcement officers are faced with life or death situations on a daily basis. One of the most difficult assessments an officer must make on the scene, and in a matter of seconds, is whether or not to pursue a suspect in a high speed chase. When the subject of a traffic stop or someone exhibiting suspicious behavior decides to recklessly flee the scene in a vehicle, they are likely to be engaged in dangerous and or illegal behavior. They also present an immediate threat to anyone they may encounter while they are behind the wheel. Yet the decision to attempt an apprehension is not always clear-cut.
The Dangers of High Speed Pursuits
Going after a fleeing suspect in a high speed pursuit presents an extremely dangerous situation for everyone on or near the roadway, including many innocent motorists and pedestrians. According to one study, from 1996 to 2015, an average of 355 persons (about 1 per day) were killed annually in pursuit-related crashes. Given the risks involved, law enforcement agencies are reexamining suspect pursuit policies and devoting more resources to high-speed driving simulation training.
When a Suspect Pursuit is Unavoidable
Police pursuits are high-risk events for both the officers involved and the public. Unfortunately, sometimes the threat posed by a suspect makes a pursuit situation necessary and unavoidable. To ensure the safety of both officers and the public in these situations, it is essential to follow established protocols. As a law enforcement officer, it is important to keep the following four major safety tips in mind during a suspect pursuit.
1. Prioritize the safety of everyone involved.
During a suspect pursuit, safety should be the foremost concern. While apprehending the suspect is the goal, it should never come at the cost of innocent lives, including your own. Maintain constant awareness of your surroundings and take precautions to minimize risks. If possible, employ tactics that reduce the potential for collateral damage, such as establishing a perimeter or even requesting helicopter support. Try not to overestimate your skills, driving and otherwise, and always care about getting yourself home at the end of the day, which will help you prioritize safety.
2. Communicate and coordinate with fellow officers.
Effective communication and coordination with other officers during a suspect pursuit could make all the difference in increasing the likelihood of a safe and successful operation. Maintain constant communication with your team and provide updates on the suspect’s location, direction, and behavior. Use radio communications or dedicated pursuit channels to relay pertinent information promptly. Coordinating efforts with other units and agencies involved helps to establish a unified approach that reduces the likelihood of perilous missteps.
3. Constantly assess the situation and make adjustments.
Assessing the risks and adjusting your tactics in real time is imperative during a suspect pursuit. Continuously evaluate the situation, the suspect’s behavior, and the environmental conditions to make informed and appropriate decisions, rather than snap reactions. Perform autogenic breathing to keep yourself calm and focused. If the pursuit becomes excessively dangerous, consider the potential risks versus the benefits of continuing. Sometimes, it may be necessary to transition to other strategies, such as establishing surveillance or gathering more evidence to aid in the suspect’s later apprehension.
4. Keep your training in mind and be prepared.
The long, hard hours police officers put into training pay off in situations like suspect pursuits. Keep skills sharp by regularly engaging in pursuit training exercises to enhance your decision-making abilities and knowledge of relevant laws and policies. Understanding pursuit driving techniques, such as maintaining safe distances, anticipating suspect maneuvers, and employing appropriate pursuit immobilization techniques when necessary will help ensure your safety. Also, go into the pursuit with the expectation that the suspect is armed so your guard is up and make sure you’re equipped with body armor and a body worn camera (BWC), in addition to your weapons.
Argus BWC from Kustom Signals Provides Critical Officer Support
Kustom Signals Argus Police Body Worn Cameras provide critical officer support in a wide range of situations, including high-speed suspect pursuits.
4G capable Argus BWC features AI-powered voice activation, recognizing common phrases to automatically trigger recording mode and capture footage in high stress moments. Important footage that could aid in a criminal prosecution will not be missed, even if officers are unable to manually activate their body worn camera. The camera can also live stream the pursuit to HQ in order to get an extra set of eyes on the scene. Its accompanying Argus Insight app can also review footage in the field to see possible discarded evidence or even where a suspect went.
Argus Features and Capabilities:
- Keeps officers safe by automatically activating to capture footage
- Automatically triggered by events including running, hard falls, gunshot detection, and more
- Alerts are sent back to administration to allow for situation assessment and initiation of live stream
- Administration sees exactly what the officer sees and can find them via GPS on a map to instruct other officers how to find them
- 12-hour battery life plus hot swappable battery so you don’t stop recording when changing battery
- Integrates with the future Argus in-car video system
- Evidence management is made easy with Argus Data Vault and companion mobile app, Argus Insight
Contact us today for more on how you can enhance safety for your agency with Argus BWC and other law enforcement tools from Kustom Signals.