“They could just put the car in reverse and get the hell out of there.” is a common statement from law enforcement professionals during video breakdown discussion regarding tactical options for officers involved in ambushes or other violent encounters during traffic stops. There are certainly times where disengaging from the situation is a viable, yet seldom discussed and rarely utilized, option for officers.
The point we often miss in these discussions is that Reverse is not the only option, and may not be the most desirable option. Putting the car in Drive and accelerating forward may be a more desirable option. To effectively drive in reverse, the officer will likely have to rotate their body in the driver’s seat to look out the rear-view mirror. Turning their torso sideways when someone is shooting at them may take away some of the protection offered by the front panel of their body armor. Backing up at any significant speed without looking at where they are going is not a skill most officers have practiced and mastered. Going in reverse may result in the officer going off the roadway or backing into an oncoming vehicle. Going backwards does not force the attacker to change their plans and provides the opportunity for them to continue shooting.
Going forward however, may change the dynamics of the fight entirely. The offender is likely not expecting the officer to drive at them and their mental model will likely be severely disrupted. This also puts the attacker on the defensive and will likely cause them to move to try and avoid getting struck by the officer’s vehicle. Striking the subject with the vehicle to stop the deadly threat may very well be a justified use of force option for the officer. Even if they do not strike the offender with their vehicle the officer will be able to drive faster and more effectively going forward than they can in reverse and itavoids the possibility they will back into an oncoming vehicle.
Providing live training opportunities for officers to practice driving forward in an ambush situation can be challenging to do safely, although I know of one agency a few years ago who created a way for their deputies to practice this. This does not mean that you do not discuss it and possibly set up creative, safe, ways for your people to physically practice it. This is also another opportunity to use Performance Enhancement Imagery to create mental reps and allow officers to practice and rehearse it in their mind.
When you are having discussions about disengaging from an event in the vehicle, remember to discuss the possibility of going forward.
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