I had a gig in Los Angeles the week before Thanksgiving—just a quick in and out, sorry to the peeps I didn’t call—and while there, I took a cop buddy up on his offer to visit the LAPD’s Davis Training Facility.
This is one of the best things about being a writer. You get to do so much fun stuff. I spent the whole day saying, “Yes!”
"Would you like to fire a gas-operated Benelli Tactical Automatic Shotgun?"Probably the most fun part was the track; an extensive, sinuous system of curves and twists used to train recruits in pursuit driving, maintaining control under dangerous circumstances, and, my personal favorite, PITting.
"Would you like to jump on the slick track and try to recover from a full-drift spin?"
“Would you like to try the laser simulation system we use to train in use of force?”
What’s that, you say? Glad you asked.
It stands for Pursuit Intervention Technique, and it’s a carefully calculated way to spin out a car you’ve been chasing. Done properly, there’s minimal risk of harm to either officer or suspect, and little to no damage to the vehicles.
You know all the ramming you see in movies and TV? This isn’t like that. It’s a finesse move, and far more effective than a blunt crash.
What you do is, as the pursuer, you close in on the offender at a steady rate. Pull up alongside until your front bumper is aligned with their rear wheels, and then match their speed. Then gently ease your car over to touch theirs.
This is the hard part—it runs counter to every instinct you have as a driver, and about five kinds of alarms go off in your head. You want to pull away, or else you want to yank the wheel hard and get it over with. But the key is to ease into a static touching position, your car riding against theirs.
Look at it this way. Take one hand and punch yourself in the other arm lightly. It moved, but less than you’d think, right? Now place your hand against the arm and push, steadily, with the same amount of force. Notice how much more effective that was?
And that’s what this maneuver is about. Once you’ve got that steady touch, you push. You do that by turning the wheel into the offender’s car. Less dramatically than you’d think; call it 20 – 30 degrees. The steady force of your vehicle spins theirs; the moment that begins to happen, their forward momentum does all the work, yanking them into a full-spin and out of the line of your car. You brake, correct your steering, and you’re good to go, while they are backwards and watching fellow officers box them in. It’s beautiful, a ballet of metal and asphalt at high speed.
God I love my job.
Anyway, a little tidbit of Wednesday morning knowledge for you. I know a lot of you are crime writers, so hopefully it will come in handy. It should go without saying, but this is for research only, don’t try it at home, and most important, don’t get me in trouble.
While I’m wrapping up, I’d like to take a moment to thank the Los Angeles Police Department for their generosity--and their service. Whether in LA, Chicago, or Pleasantville, cops have a hard job, one where their daily successes go unsung but every mistake is front page news. It’s a job they do for far too little money and in the face of far too much criticism. I can’t change that, but I can at least say, with all sincerity: Thank you.