I, along with fellow ODMP Board member Mike Schutz, had the extreme—and I mean extreme—privilege of taking a tour of the Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy's EVOC course earlier today. Sitting shotgun during the high speed driving and maneuvers, I couldn't get out of my head how many officers are killed each year in auto-related crashes.
The Fairfax County PD has a truly world-class driving track and instructors who are second to none. Law enforcement administrators and officers from as far away as England, Australia, and even Russia have come to this facility to train.
After the driving was done, we talked with the instructors about the disparity in agencies' availability and effectiveness of vehicle training around the country. A lot has to do with budget size, and some the training they described other agencies giving their officers was almost unbelievable to actually be true, yet it was true. The reality is, the smaller or hard-pressed an agency is, the less likely they will be able to afford proper training of any kind; and the lack of proper training leads directly to an increase in serious injuries and deaths to civilians and officers alike.
Auto-related deaths are now the number one killer of law enforcement officers, and after today's tour I have a much better appreciation of why that is. Even in a completely controlled environment, pulling off some of these moves was scary - and these are moves that our officers must do every day responding to emergencies or pursuing criminals who have no regard for the safety of others.
The bottom line is this: All officers must make a commitment to obtain and maintain the driving skills needed to survive on the dangerous streets of their towns, counties and state! Yes, being shot is still a very real danger, but the reality is being seriously injured or killed in a crash is much more probable. If your agency—for whatever reason—isn't able to provide you with appropriate training, reach out to a neighboring agency or academy and see if they can help.
At the end of the day, it's all about everyone going home safe.
[video] See some of the Fairfax County Police Academy instructors in action, teaching teenagers better driving techniques in a very unique program for Fairfax County citizens.