Could Your Vehicle Approach Get You Killed?

If an officer or his vehicle is immobilized because of haphazard parking on a hot call, other officers can effectively become trapped inside the kill zone because of an inability to back up or accelerate forward due to the incapacitated patrol unit.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

The haphazard manner in which officers sometimes park their patrol units when pulling up on "hot" calls is a liability to all officers involved. Often, they'll stack up behind one another in a conga line. Or, they'll peel off from one another just enough so as to encourage locals to squeeze between them and knock off a side-view mirror, thereby ensuring job security for some highly appreciative sergeant.

But it really becomes a problem should the officers come under fire incident to a firefight or ambush and…

  • A vehicle becomes disabled
  • Other motorists are allowed to enter a problem area

If an officer or his vehicle is immobilized, other officers can effectively become trapped inside the kill zone because of an inability to back up or accelerate forward due to the incapacitated patrol unit.

That's why on moderate- to high-risk calls I prefer a staggered and offset approach, with the first patrol unit parking nearest to the curb, and each succeeding car parked half a car length back and next to the one preceding it. With two or three cars parked in such a manner, you can effectively…

  • Keep other motorists from entering into the situation.
  • Put exponentially more engine blocks between each succeeding officer and the target location should officers come under ambush fire from higher caliber firearms.
  • Allow for (relatively) safer egress should a patrol unit that might otherwise be parked in front or behind another patrol car become disabled.

Situations where such an approach could be considered include suspicious circs/possible ambush calls and certain domestics. Employing this tactic entails some self discipline on the part of units responding, especially as the first thing on many cops' minds is to just get there and engage or detain the disturbing party.

We experimented with the staggered approach at my old station, and found it generally viable (narrow streets withstanding for obvious reasons). If anyone identifies any inherent problems that outweigh the potential good that can come of it, I'd like to hear of them, as well.

Mass Active Shooter Incidents

At Ron McCarthy's seminar on Beslan-type attacks he gave at TREXPO West, I asked him about use of off-duty and/or retired officers as a response pool resource. My reasoning was that even if they weren't to enter an active shooter situation, their knowledge of protocol would facilitate evacuations, traffic diversion, and crime scene containment. And, yes, if need be, their ability to actively engage suspects if necessary.

This might not be as far-out an idea as one might take on a first read, especially if Mike Lessman's DSM Safety Banner ( for off-duty cops takes off. It will avail them a national identifier so as to minimize the prospect of friendly fire situations. Notifying them may simply be a matter of…

Direct Dial Devices

With today's direct dial devices—such as Dialogic Communications systems—it wouldn't be difficult to compile the names and contact numbers of officers residing in one's jurisdiction. Should an attack of a school or business take place, they can be simultaneously notified and told where to respond. Of course, this would assume that the officers would be willing to volunteer their information to the local PD and that they'd be willing to assist in the first place. I'm sure that those with loved ones who might be affected by the situation would be willing to assist in any way needed. At least I got McCarthy's vote. I leave it to others to see if they want to act on it once called.

Speaking of Phone Calls…

Many cops carry iPhones these days. If you're one of them and haven't already done so, you may want to consider downloading an available recording application. It works well and could save the hassle of carrying one more object—namely, a separate pocket recorder. If nothing else, it makes for a fine backup recorder (note: I haven't been able to tape phone conversations on the iPhone with it, so you may still want that first recorder if it's an evidentiary concern).

Want to protect your job? Take better care of your equipment. Nationally, millions of tax dollars are spent each year repairing or replacing logistics. Battered radios, dented fenders, and damaged cameras can often be traced back to officers who capriciously handled them.

Want to save a life? Maybe your own? Take an extra second or two in what you're doing. Few have been the number of times that officers couldn't have taken an additional second rolling on a call or running around a corner without someone dying for it. In fact, many, many more lives have been lost because of haste. So the next time you're about to clear an intersection or pass on the right, make damn sure it's safe to do so.

Finally, on Monday May 11, 2009, Mike Siegfried will be teaching a TASER defense class at the San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sheriff's Department regional training center. The class will cover how to defend the TASER and firearm from a suspect takeaway. Officers will learn techniques from standing, kneeling, and ground positions. This class will use techniques covered in Mike's POLICE Magazine article "TASER Defense." The class will be limited to 15 students. Cost of the one-day class is $100.

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