3 Ways Law Enforcement Agencies Can Manage High-risk Vehicle Events and Rebuild Trust With The Community
Events in 2020 and early 2021 have led to the deterioration of trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, sparking important conversations around police reform. With law enforcement tactics under increased scrutiny, agencies are reevaluating their policies and procedures, especially around use of force such as officer-involved shootings, uses of electronically controlled devices (“stun guns”), and the use of a chokehold.
But pursuit tactics – which can be equally lethal – have not received the same degree of attention, despite the significant risks to suspects and innocent victims and continued policy critique nationwide. Unfortunately, recent events like the murder of three law enforcement officers in Puerto Rico following a pursuit have also shown how vehicle crimes can escalate into tragedy.
The decision to pursue is often driven by policy, training and the technology available to the agency. Should a pursuit ensue, the goal becomes to minimize risk by making the pursuit unnecessary or bringing it to a quick and safe conclusion. Fortunately, training and technology can help law enforcement in de-escalating high-risk vehicle pursuits.
De-escalation Training is a Crucial Part of Driver Training
Many law enforcement officers and agencies may associate pursuit training solely with driving skills and may not be aware of the important role it plays in de-escalation. Because high-speed pursuit driving is a complex task with both physical and emotional components, it should be treated like other uses of force, and training for pursuit events should include de-escalation skills and techniques.
“Almost all vehicle use-of-force incidents commence with a driving response that sets the tone for the rest of the situation,” said Chuck Deakins, lieutenant commander (retired) and lead specialist for simulation training at FAAC. “Driving simulators provide the environment to practice and train for a controlled and de-escalated response to crisis situations. These driving de-escalation skills and techniques learned by students for pursuit response in the driver training simulator transfer directly and should be applied to field situations.”
Driving de-escalation skills must be two-fold – both preparing the officer for the intensity and the fluidity of a pursuit situation that requires fast action but also preparing the officer to de-escalate the situation when arriving on the scene.
This is no easy task. In a matter of moments, the situation may change from a pursuit to apprehension, requiring the officer to master not only the driving skills needed to navigate the pursuit tactically, safely, and within policy, but also to accurately assess the potential risks and dangers of the apprehension and approach it with the right attitude, judgment and decision-making skills.
The skills taught in driver response training are tactical, practical, and judgmental. Some skills, like putting on a seatbelt, activating emergency lights without looking, monitoring speed constantly and communicating via radio, should become automatic enough through practice to become second nature.
Other skills – like navigating a curve at high speeds, crossing through a busy intersection or coming under fire by a suspect – cannot safely be practiced in real life. That’s where driving simulator technology becomes essential by providing a visceral experience in a safe setting, helping to cement the lessons in both body and mind.
Technology like FAAC’s VITALS interactive assessment application that records training performance key parameters. In addition to practicing driving skills, the simulator enables active and engaged instructors to identify the student’s attitude and approach through complicated, intense and critical situations like emergency response or pursuits.
“Too often, instructors view the simulated driving environment the same as the driving track – only useful for teaching driving skills,” said Deakins. “The truth is that the simulated environment provides so much more opportunity to identify attitude, judgment and decision-making skills of students through technology such as replay, picture in picture and virtual assessment of a student’s decisions, regardless of the instructor presence.”
“Revising a use-of-force policy does not translate to organizational change. Truly effective training is what truly brings about change,” said Deakins. “Discussions around police reform should include de-escalation as a critical component of driver training, especially in light of the danger that pursuits can pose to officers, suspects and citizens alike.”
By Laura Neitzel, Police1 BrandFocus Staff
Sponsored by Pursuit Response