Police emergency driving and in particular, pursuit, is one of the most dangerous and controversial things police do. I can tell you that we give it the serious treatment that it deserves. In my experience a kid without a driver’s license is as likely to run from the police as a serious criminal. And we know very little about the person behind the wheel of a fleeing car at the time the pursuit starts. It could be either. But I think that you want us to use very different tactics depending on whether it is a minor traffic violator or an armed robber.
Wednesday I spent part of the morning with Lt. Miarka reviewing the dashcam video and the radio traffic of two officers involved in a pursuit. Our General Orders call for us to review each and every pursuit:
The review shall address the initiation of the pursuit, the actions of all involved officers, communications personnel. the field supervisor, tactics used and pursuit termination.
It may seem as thought we are asking a lot from every involved officer and in particular our supervisors to evaluate pursuits they are unfolding. We ask them to weigh the risks vs. the expected outcome. In other words we ask them to think about the crime that is being committed, the danger to the public for the offender to stay at large vs. letting them go and getting them later through investigation. And we ask them to evaluate at this while pursuing at high-speed and in traffic. The officer has some responsibilities, the dispatcher has some, and the primary responsiblity falls on the supervisor. Tactics must be considered. In other words, does the violation or crime merit forced stop methods like stop sticks? Or roadblocks or pit manuevers? All are very dangerous to the violator, the officers and the public. Precision driving of this type is an important skill for police. So is good judgment.
So we keep close control on all instances. To make sure that we are following our own training and rules we require that all pursuits be investigated and reviewed by the Operations Commander and ultimately by me to make sure that it meets our standards. And if it doesn’t, we discipline or retrain our personnel to improve performance, whichever we feel is appropriate.
I can say that we have very few pursuits. Don’t worry though, we DO investigate and locate the violators in most cases even thought we don’t engage in high-speed pursuit very often.
We are in the business of protecting and serving the public, not creating dangerous traffic situations in which they are injured or killed. And I want to save our own lives as well. A Michigan State Police trooper was killed earlier this year responding to an emergency situation. Traffic crashes kill more police than armed gunman.