How to keep officers safe with the Nighthawk remote tire deflation and retraction device
Manually deployed spike strips can be dangerous. But a new type of device reduces the risks officers face.
By PoliceOne Brand Focus Staff
Police pursuits have long been one of the most dangerous activities in law enforcement. Stopping a fleeing suspect – and the potential danger they pose to the public – is both an important part of the job and a major challenge.
In the past, dangerous, manual application of tire deflating devices was one of the only options officers had to stop a fleeing vehicle. But those using manual or hand-thrown tire deflation devices may be putting themselves at a higher risk.
Now, new innovations in spike strip technology can mitigate those risks.
Risks of manually deployed spike strips
A spike strip punctures and damages the tires of a vehicle in an attempt to slow it down and, ultimately, stop it to end the pursuit.
With a hand-thrown tire deflation device, an officer must be ahead of the target vehicle, park, rush to the rear of the car, tear out the spike strips and get ready to deploy it.
The officer must then listen to the radio, wait for a voice signal from the pursuing officer and, right when the suspect is in his or her sight, throw the strips across the road in front of the speeding, often out-of-control suspect. After deployment the officer must manually retract the spike strips by “pulling” them off the road before the pursuing officer runs over them.
This isn’t easy to pull off, and it puts officers directly in harm’s way.
“Cops have to throw the strip into the roadway and retreat rapidly to get out of the way,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation. The foundation is a nonpartisan police research organization that aims to advance policing research and science.
“They have to stay there, and, as the car approaches, pull the spikes to hit the suspect’s tire—but not other drivers or patrol cars behind them,” Bueermann said.
Spike strips were in every vehicle when Bueermann was an officer and then chief of the Redlands (Calif.) Police Department. Aside from physically ramming a car, he said, they were the best way to stop a suspect in a pursuit.
It is an option to stop suspects, but isn’t without peril. Their use has resulted in a number of fatal incidents. In the two decades since spike strips became popular, 30 people have been killed, according to an FBI bulletin.
“Like anything to do with police work, there is a level of danger,” he said. “The proof is the recent deaths.”
How remotely deployed and retracted spike strips are changing the game
That’s why Bueermann is so optimistic about a new, safer type of spike strip technology: remotely deployed and retracted spike strips.
One such product is NightHawk from Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company (PSEMC), a 30-pound, MIL-STD-810G certified, pursuit termination system that deploys and retracts spike strips automatically in 2 seconds using a dual-button remote control that operates up to 100 feet away.
NightHawk’s lightweight, portable design includes STOP STICK Teflon-coated quills to penetrate the tire and act as valves to release air at a safe, controlled rate.
With the simple press of a button, Nighthawk launches remotely and retracts spike strips after the target vehicle tires are engaged. It takes less than 1.7 seconds to deploy and 1.7 seconds to retract the device. Additionally, Nighthawk is reusable, leaves zero debris on the roadway and is reliable in all weather conditions, according PSEMC.
NightHawk lets officers retreat to a place of safety, launch 15-feet of spike strips, then retract the spike strips so the pursuing officer’s vehicle doesn’t suffer the same fate as the suspect’s—without putting the deploying officer in danger when manually removing it from the roadway.
“It is a wonderful invention because it mitigates a great deal of the danger involved in deploying spike strips,” he added. “Retracting is a smart technology advancement as it is an effective tool that increases officer safety rather dramatically.”
Spike strips are an effective tool for rapid deflation of a suspect’s vehicle. But with NightHawk, they can be used in a safer way to protect those who protect us.
For more information, visit PSEMC.