If an officer initiates a vehicle pursuit and subsequently the suspect or officer strike an uninvolved citizen, the officer’s city will be facing an expensive lawsuit. If the same officer engages in a foot pursuit, there is a significantly smaller chance for the criminal or officer to seriously hurt or kill someone by running into them. Hence, significantly fewer lawsuits.
However, the city’s perceived “danger” should not be your perception as well. Every year, police officers are murdered when engaging in foot pursuits. Take the murder of Cleveland Police Officer Derek Owens who was shot during a foot pursuit on February 29. Owens and his partner chased several suspicious men who fled on their arrival. While being chased, one of the men produced a handgun, turned, and shot Officer Owens.
K-9 officers are especially vulnerable in a pursuit. K-9 officers frequently are chasing suspects, and probably find themselves more vulnerable than most patrol officers. Deputy Sheriff Matt Williams and his canine partner Diogi were murdered on September 28, 2006 when they gave chase after a man who had fled on foot from a traffic stop in Polk County, Florida.
So, what are some of the things you can do to make a safer pursuit?
- Don’t Push A Bad Position – If the suspect has gotten out of sight, slow down. If you have the units available, set up a perimeter and get K-9 enroute to assist with a track.
- Negotiate Corners Safely – If the suspect turns a corner, slow down and carefully negotiate the corner. Swing wide, slicing the pie as you go. Yes, this takes time, and the suspect may use the extra time to get away, but running headlong into an ambush is a fatal mistake.
- Anticipate Trouble – Sometimes just showing up will cause your suspect to flee. However, if you are already in contact with your suspect, pay attention to the body language he is displaying. If your suspect is thinking about running, he will typically telegraph his intentions in his non-verbal communication. Even if you miss some of the cues, your partner should pick up on the signals if the two of you are using Contact and Cover techniques.
- Stay Physically Fit – If you catch the suspect, you have to be fit enough to effect the arrest. If you are at the point of exhaustion when you catch the suspect, how can you handcuff or fight him?