Who's chasing who? Safety tips for foot pursuits
An officer detains an active parolee gang member for questioning and during the detention the suspect suddenly runs. The officer chases the suspect for two blocks, observes the suspect to be grabbing into his shorts pocket. The suspect yells out to the officer that he is armed and will shoot the officer. The officer tackles the suspect, there is a violent struggle for the weapon and the officer shoots and kills the suspect.
An officer attempts to affect an enforcement stop on a motorist for a hit and run accident. The driver fails to yield and stop at the first available opportunity, drives to a park and then suddenly foot bails into the park. The lone officer chases after the suspect into the park where the officer is subsequently shot and killed.
The situations described above are similar circumstances each resulting in opposite tragic and deadly consequences. Why does this continue to happen?
Who’s Chasing Who?
In other words, they chase the suspect until the suspect catches them.
Officers should remind themselves that what they often do not know about the people they are chasing and the environment the foot pursuit takes place can seriously hurt or kill the officer.
Reducing the Reactionary Gap
The public sees so many foot pursuits on live television that they, and unfortunately the officers themselves, fail to realize just how inherently dangerous these foot pursuits really are. The situation for the officer and suspect can literally and irrevocably change in the blink of an eye and can have fatal consequences for each.
A review of 2006 FBI statistics on officers killed in the line of duty indicates that 38 percent of all officers killed in the U.S. occurred during a crime in progress where the officer was affecting an arrest, and 60 percent of all officers killed under such circumstances were acting alone. Further, 68 percent of those officers were killed at night — 70 percent of officers are killed by handguns from distances of 15 feet or less. Other statistics show that in a physical confrontation with a suspect, officers end up on the ground 86 percent of the time, where 25 percent are seriously injured and 12 percent are killed with their own weapons such as handguns and batons.
These are certainly not favorable survival statistics for the officer.
So what should the officer do when a suspect runs from them? Here are a few officer safety tips:
Suspects usually go to ground and hide soon after an officer loses sight of them. Setting up a perimeter and using a K-9 and/or air support to find the suspect has historically proven to be the most successful method of capture.
There is never a good reason for an officer to get injured or killed during foot pursuits. If officers can just remember a few of these important tips, they will make it home safe and alive.
Stay safe out there!
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