Earlier this month, officers with the Warren (OH) Police Department took into custody a suspect who had first led them on vehicle pursuit and then fled on foot after crashing that car and running into a daycare center.
The agency said in a Facebook post that officers pursued the man—who was wanted for felonious assault—as he ran into the back entrance of the daycare center as an employee walking back into the building was attempting to shut the door.
"Officers followed after the suspect and as they entered the same doorway," the post said, and the suspect "raised his hand toward the officers and threatened to 'shoot' them."
The post included body-worn video showing the officers following the suspect deeper into the facility and cuffing him in a room where workers shielded wailing children.
Officers with Warren PD have been roundly and rightly commended for an outstanding job in bringing this incident—in which no children, daycare workers, or officers were injured—to a quick resolution. The release of the video should give trainers and roll call supervisors a good "jumping off point" for pre-shift discussions about the dangers of foot pursuits.
Consider the following...
1. Quickly ask (and answer) a couple questions. Who is the suspect? Why are they fleeing? Are they armed? If officers have information that the individual has just committed a violent crime and/or is likely to be an imminent threat if they are lost into the mist, then Tennessee v. Garner kicks in and pursuing officers may legally resort to deadly force. If there's no such exigency and the identity of the individual is known, would it be possible to make an arrest later at a known location?
2. Consider the terrain and the conditions. Is this an exclusively urban area or can the suspect seek concealment in a wooded area? Is there snow, ice, standing water, sand, mud, or other traction issues that can cause an injury? Remember that darkened backyards offer a wide variety of hazards—vicious dogs, swimming pools, clotheslines, and fixed objects in the ground like sprinkler heads—all of which can cause and unplanned and abrupt end to a pursuit.
3. Be wary of corners, doors, fences, and other points at which an ambush can be laid. As soon as a fleeing suspect darts around a corner, leaps a fence, or enters a doorway and is lost to sight, the danger level increases almost exponentially. Remember to use techniques such as "slicing the pie" and "popping the corner" and whenever possible, never traverse a fence exactly where the suspect did.
4. Have a plan for what happens after the foot pursuit is finished. Make good use of the radio—including description of the suspect, direction of travel, and other pertinent information—to call for backup or set up a perimeter in the event that the suspect suddenly vanishes. Have in mind the verbal commands you're going to need to use even if you're winded from the physical exertion.
5. Finally, be cognizant of your own physical condition. It serves no one to suffer a fatal heart attack while running after an individual—unencumbered by the weight of body armor and a duty belt) who is quite obviously far more fleet of foot that you. Whether or not you're in any way religious, it's useful to bear in mind the King James version of Proverbs 16:18 in which we find the passage, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
The potential for injuries—as well as preventable line-of-duty deaths—sustained during foot pursuits must be considered when such incidents begin to unfold. In preparation for that inevitable eventuality, police trainers and command staff should take time to examine ways to mitigate the inherent perils.