Car chases are one of the most dangerous police operations. In 2018, 6 of the 106 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty died during high-speed pursuits, according to the FBI.
It should therefore come as no surprise that pursuit safety is a high priority of many police departments, who are looking for new ways to minimize the potential risks and fatalities.
Driving simulators are far more advanced and realistic than 10 years ago. Some devices are configurable to show streets and landmarks in the area where the officer works. The instructor can set up virtually any situation in advance, and the officer can run the scenario as many times as desired.
Law enforcement driving simulators often include a 360-degree panoramic view, vibration generators, and ABS braking/steering feedback mechanisms to provide a realistic feel of the road and full sensory driving experience.
Recently, PlayStation partnered up with Lincolnshire Police in the UK for a trial project to provide extra tuition to specialist drivers using Gran Turismo Sport. Four police officers trained using the game, which includes a new virtual reality mode. According to PlayStation, all officers showed improvement in safety, stability, braking, and steering after training.
“The project will never be a replacement for traditional training methods but we are always looking for innovative ways to supplement the learning of our officers and staff,“ said Shaun West, the police spokesman.
Police departments across the country are looking for safer ways to nab suspects on the run. A GPS tracking device can help law enforcement officers gain tactical advantage without engaging in dangerous pursuits and reportedly leads to an 80%+ apprehension rate.
This is how it works: Compressed air units are installed in the grill of police cruisers, containing two four-and-a-half inch projectiles packed with GPS satellite trackers and coated with enough adhesive to make them stick to a fleeing vehicle.
When a suspect runs, an officer can fire the trackers at the suspect’s car; there is no need for sirens or lights or 90 mph chases that could kill people. Computers read the GPS signal and track the vehicle in question.
The driver of the fleeing vehicle often slows down or stops once they think they’re no longer being pursued, making it easier for law enforcement to apprehend the person.
The GPS dart is part of a larger movement by police departments to use technology to find safer, less lethal ways to deal with suspects. Tasers, body cameras and non-lethal ammunition are just some of the tools police have begun using to identify, pursue and stop criminals without resorting to deadly force.
PursuitAlert is a smartphone app with the potential to save lives. It sends out notifications to anyone with the app on their phone when a high-speed chase is two miles away or less.
It may seem improbable that a driver wouldn’t notice a stream of lights approaching but, in reality, a high-speed chase can take people completely by surprise, especially at busy intersections.
A quick notification from the app could help drivers avoid a potentially deadly crash and clear the road for the law enforcement operation.
The system is now active with the Oconee County Sheriff’s Department in South Carolina; the first police department to adopt this new technology.
Sheriff Crensaw says there are additional benefits of the system: After the pursuit has finished, the alert system will allow the Sheriff’s office to go back and look at speeds during the pursuit. Deputies can also generate drop pins for when suspects throw things from vehicles making it easier to locate evidence after a pursuit.
Improved Police Vehicles
(Image source: policemag.com)
Police officers rely on a wide variety of high-performance vehicles to ensure they can effectively respond to pursuit situations whilst keeping officers as safe as possible.
For Chevy’s specialist law enforcement division, the best on the market is the 2019 Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicle (PPV). The vehicle offers an optional Enhanced Driver Alert Package that includes automatic braking, collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and Safety Alert Driver Seat (vibration feedback that is to prevent crash threats, also used in space and military).
Dana Hammer, Chevy’s Product and Marketing Manager for law enforcement vehicles, emphasizes that Chevy’s new safety features can be easily overridden by the driver, in case they must pull an emergency maneuver.
To reduce crash fatalities, Ford has affixed a steel X-shaped metal brace to the floor of the police SUV since its first launch in 2013, but the 2020 Interceptor Utility design also includes a ladder-like steel safety frame that’s bigger and stronger than anything used before.
“The structure stays in-tact and strong, allowing less crush. It takes all of the energy from the object hitting the back of the police car and disperses it throughout the entire structure,” said Bill Gubing, Ford’s Lead Engineer.
The new Police Interceptor Utility technology protects the fuel tank as well as the hybrid battery. “We’re the only ones in the industry with this rear certification and bracing. This increases the chance of officer survival.” Gubing noted.
The vehicle also offers driver-assist technology that includes Pre-Collision Assist with automatic emergency braking, which features Pedestrian Detection and forward collision warning.