By Dawn Campbell
“I have a vehicle that took off on me. In pursuit.”
The officer pursues a vehicle which would not stop for a simple traffic violation. The officer accelerates, but follows at a distance where he can react if the vehicle he is pursuing wrecks. Every few seconds, the officer provides dispatch with details of his location and the direction the vehicle.
“West bound University. Crossing M.L. King.”
The chase has been going for a few minutes and the officer in pursuit has several other police units with him for backup. The officer giving chase sternly asks, “Permission to P.I.T?”
Dispatch calls the watch commander on the air and asks the same question. “Permission granted,” a commanding voice says simply.
The officer lines up the way he was taught in the academy’s four days of driving training and taps the back of the chased vehicle. The chased vehicle spins around and comes to a stop. The chase ends with no injuries and slight damage to a police car.
“P.I.T. stands for pursuit intervention technique. On average we use the P.I.T. maneuver once a month,” Des Moines Senior Police Officer Chuck Guhl told the Asian Citizen’s Academy on May 21. “The Des Moines Police Department was the first agency to train in P.I.T. in 1996,” Guhl proudly shared.
During the classroom discussion, Guhl explained how officers in training spend four days in driving school during their time at the Des Moines regional Police Academy. On the last day of driving school, recruits spend four hours in P.I.T. training. This past year, the academy class had a new opportunity. The recruits spent four hours training in high speed pursuits at the Knoxville Speedway.
Police Officer Brookelyn Budd, who graduated in 2008 from the Des Moines Regional Police Academy said, “The new training was effective; it gave us the opportunity to actually participate in a high speed chase while in a safe, secure environment. It is definitely something my fellow classmates learned from and enjoyed.”
When asked how do officers who have been with the department for a length of time receive P.I.T and pursuit training, Guhl informed the class that those officers receive refresher courses. At this time, every three years officers receive a refresher in P.I.T. and pursuit driving.
Following the classroom discussion, the citizen’s academy moved outdoors to the Des Moines Area Community College driving course to watch a P.I.T. demonstration take place.
Attendees watched as a black Crown Victoria driven by Senior Police Officer Chad McFarland drove around the DMACC driving course mimicking a pursuit with an old squad car. Just as McFarland rounded a corner, Senior Officer Chad Cornwell and Senior Officer Tony Gomez lined up their vehicle and performed a P.I.T. maneuver. The vehicles with metal bumper guards made contact and the helmet clad McFarland sent dust flying as his vehicle spun to a stop.
Students watched as the officers performed the demonstration approximately five to six times. Guhl, Sergeant Larry Davey, Sergeant Tony Knox and Senior Officer Doua Lor mingled amongst students to assist in explaining what was occurring and what signified a good P.I.T. versus a bad P.I.T.
After the P.I.T demonstration, attendees got the opportunity to become up close and personal with a DMPD squad car and learn about what makes traffic stops nerve racking for law enforcement officers.
Lor showed the class how an officer looks up license plates of a stopped vehicle on I-Mobile, the computer unit located in squad cars. Lor also briefly explained Tracs, the computer program that is used for traffic accidents.
For the last part of the class, Officer Gomez who works in the traffic, unit shared what things make officers nervous during traffic stops. Gomez advised attendees not to exit the vehicle they are in when being approached by an officer during a traffic stop. He also advised attendees to keep their hands where the officer can see them. “Please don’t dig around in your glove compartment or under your seat,” Gomez said. Officers don’t know if the person in the vehicle is merely searching for license and registration or if they are searching for a firearm.