Inside a police pursuit: What goes through officers' minds?

At high speeds, every decision is potentially dangerous. Fortunately, police officers get intensive training before getting into a pursuit.

Every day is a bit different when you jump inside a patrol car and hit the road.

Law enforcement officers rarely know what the day will bring or what dangers may occur.

Such is the life of a police officer, going from calm to chaotic in just seconds.

"That's the life of a police officer. We deal with it on a daily basis," said Phoenix police Sgt. Jonathan Howard.

One of the potential dangers is when officers become engaged in a high-speed pursuit of a dangerous suspect.

"A minor error at freeway speeds can lead to death," said Howard.

All pursuits are different and while it may seem like we see them all the time they actually are somewhat rare.

There are however times when the red and blue lights from an officers car aren't enough to stop a fleeing suspect, "The more people on the road, the more potential people will get injured," said Howard.

In those cases, officers with the Phoenix Police Department must rely on their training and instincts.

The officers' No. 1 priority is to ensure the safety of the public.

"We look to minimize the time we actively engage in a pursuit with any vehicle," said Howard.

Before officers with the Phoenix Police Department ever get behind the wheel of a patrol car, they go through 40 hours of training and must be certified.

If cadets can't pass the driving test, they do not become officers.

"We take it seriously," said Howard.

Every agency is different in regards to how they handle a pursuit and what is allowed in terms of tactics.

Phoenix police will rarely use a pit maneuver, which involves the officer using his/her vehicle to collide with the back of the suspect's, spinning it out of control.

As is the case with many police actions, no two chases are the same. A lot goes into deciding what an officer will and won't do.

Factors include the amount of traffic on the road, the age of the suspect, the crime they are accused of, among other variables.

Howard stressed that the No. 1 priority is keeping the public safe and that will often mean allowing a suspect to get away, if only temporarily.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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