Responding to crimes in progress are different than the routine “see the lady” calls we normally get when a crime is discovered.
When entering police work, most of us assumed that responding to crimes in progress was the standard call. Of course, most of us were also disappointed to discover that of all of the calls we respond to, only a fraction of them involve an actual criminal complaint, and of those, only a small number are “in progress.”
In progress calls may be infrequent, but they are the most dangerous for the simple reason that the suspect is still on scene. Below are a few things to keep in mind while responding to an active call.
Radio Traffic – Depending on the nature of the call, many people may be responding to the event. It is important to allow the dispatchers to give you updated information as it comes in.
Once on scene, however, radio right-of-way should be given to the officer(s) at the incident. They may have emergency traffic that must get out immediately. Trust me, nothing is more frustrating than trying to get on the radio to call for help when other officers are suffering from diareaha of the mouth.
Safe Driving – In most years, traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death for cops on the job. Driving faster than the weather and road conditions can handle, or beyond your ability, can get you killed.
If that isn’t reason enough to be cautious in your response, consider that you are putting other officers in danger that still have to handle the emergency call to which you were going. Officers that could be rolling as cover to the original incident are now diverted to your crash.
Pay close attention to clearing intersections also. The lights and siren may give you legal right of way, but someone not paying attention can still T-bone you as you try to cross.
Arrival On Scene – Pay attention to how and where you arrive at the incident. Where you position yourself may create a larger danger to citizens, victims and yourself.
If the situation is somewhat contained (i.e. not an active shooter where you have to go in RIGHT NOW), try to position yourself with cover and concealment. Try to pick a spot where you can observe the scene and direct other officers into position.
Information – While enroute, dispatch is probably your only source of information on the events. Once on scene, you may become the best source of info.
If the circumstances allow, collect information from witnesses and from your own observations. This will allow additional officers to be better prepared for their own approach and arrival.
If specialized equipment is needed, such as SWAT or a shield, the quicker you can determine what is going on, the quicker those resources can be rolled out to you.
Officer Safety – At an in progress crime, you know you have a criminal on scene. You may know some information about him or her prior to contact, but you have to assume that the person is capable and willing to harm you to make his escape.
Use all of your officer safety training and tools you have available to you. If it is a relatively minor call, don’t assume it can’t go bad quickly. Make sure you use contact and cover techniques.
On more serious calls, don’t be afraid to pull out the 12 gauge shotgun or rifle. A lot of people hesitate to pull out a long gun, fearing administrative disapproval. If it is a serious call, break out the big guns. You are much better off having it and not needing it, than the other way ‘round.
Wear your vest – If you think it is too hot on the road to wear a vest, find a desk job. I’m tired of police funerals. It shocks me, but here in the 21st Century, we still have officers being killed by wounds that would have been prevented if they had worn their bullet resistant vest.
Crimes in progress are more serious than the routine calls. Treat them as such. Get to the scene quickly but safely, then work with your partners to handle the call safely.