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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Foot Pursuits: They are Very High Risk

Foot pursuits are high risk areas.
It’s a scene right out of the movies: The police officer jams on the brakes, the squad car screeches to a stop, the officer jumps out, and starts chasing a suspect. It’s called a foot pursuit and that officer just went through an invisible sign that says “High Risk Area.” That risk applies not only to the officer, but the suspect and the public as well.

LMCIT statistics show that these “high risk-low frequency” events account for 8% of the total police work comp claims, and that injuries from a foot pursuit make up 7% of the total cost for police work comp. Often the officer is alone and this explosion of energy will cause most officers to have tunnel vision, lose situation awareness, and impair their ability to communicate. Frequently, radio transmissions cannot be understood as the officer is trying to catch his or her breath and is somewhat lost as they pursue across the unfamiliar territory that is full of hazards like fences, uneven ground, and clotheslines—adding to the confusion.

Rochester Post Bulletin: “Five People Join Assault of Local Deputy”
A recent event in the Rochester area showed how rapidly the risk can increase during a foot pursuit. The driver of a car who had committed a minor traffic offense ran from the car, and a deputy pursued him on foot. Once the deputy caught him, the man began to fight with the deputy and they were on the ground. Suddenly four more people appeared to assist the suspect with the fight and one of them had the deputy in a choke hold and he began to “black out”. The deputy survived and was released from the hospital that night. Three of the people have been charged—a fourth is expected to be charged soon. 

Foot pursuits are an explosion of risk factors that are out of the control of the officer. The terrain, the suspect’s capabilities, lack of cover, communication issues, and potential ambush are just a few.

Some Risk Management Ideas
Foot pursuits are very high risk.
  1. Know your policy if you have one.  Know where you have the “may’s and shall’s”
  2. Plan ahead and mentally rehearse the factors that warrant this type of risk
  3. Consider slowing down and maintaining a moving surveillance of the suspect
  4. Let the suspect get tired, experience reduced vision, and loss of situational awareness. Save your energy to make the arrest
  5. Coordinating other resources, setting up a perimeter, and maintaining situational awareness is often the best strategy

Up next: Getting more “reps” in a field training officer program.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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