Practicing police pursuits: an inside look at the dangers of high-speed chases

Updated: Aug. 1, 2023 at 5:00 PM EDT
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FORT DRUM, New York (WWNY) - Police pursuits: they’re intense, demanding and downright dangerous. That’s why local law enforcement officials are learning how to safely chase suspects.

Police from a dozen agencies gather at Fort Drum to take part in the Emergency Vehicle Operators Course, or EVOC.

Students learn advanced skills in turning, braking and decision-making during high-stress situations.

In the real world, they’ll use what they’ve learned to make split-second decisions, with the public’s safety as the top priority.

“Nobody getting hurt is our first goal and catching the bad guy is the second goal,” said Sgt. Ben Timerman, an EVOC instructor.

Every law enforcement agency has policies on pursuits, including how fast police can drive, when to activate lights and sirens, and when to pull back.

Because pursuits are so dangerous, many agencies allow their officers to give chase only if the suspect has committed a violent crime.

“It’s not just like in the movies where you’re pursuing with wild abandon. You have to make sure that you’re considering all of the legal aspects and all of your policies,” said Timerman. “We say that it’s easy to get into a pursuit, but the hard part is deciding when to stop or if you should continue pursuing someone,”

Then there’s the human factor. Officers are under intense stress during pursuits. They’re multitasking. They’re considering weather and road conditions. They’re communicating over the police radio.

“It’s extremely mentally and physically taxing because you’re doing a whole lotta stuff and you’re trying to do it all by yourself because most patrol officers around this area work alone,” said Lt. Robert Derouin, an EVOC instructor.

“Between firearms and vehicle operation, those are the most dangerous things that we get into, not only for the officers but for the public. And, to come out here and do this training helps us lower our liability, makes us safer and that makes the general public safer,” said Timerman.

On Wednesday on 7 News This Evening at 6, we’ll be speaking with some students who completed the course and we’ll accompany an EVOC instructor on the obstacle course.