Every year we see law enforcement officers lose their lives while deploying tire deflation devices in an attempt to stop a fleeing vehicle. So far three law enforcement officers have been killed in 2021 while deploying tire deflation devices. We do not have data on how many injuries to officers result from the deployment of tire deflation devices and we have no idea how many close calls and near misses there are every year.
If you are still using tire deflation devices the first question you need to address is, “Is the risk worth the gain?” In order to answer this question some of the factors you need to examine are:
- The number of deployments.
- The circumstances surrounding those deployments.
- The effectiveness of those deployments.
- The risk created for the officers by those deployments.
- The risk created for the public by those deployments.
- How many of those deployments were near misses, close calls or flat out luck that an officer was not seriously hurt or killed.
Many agencies that have completed an analysis of the risk have made the decision to pull all their tire deflation devices off the road.
If your agency has made the decision to keep tire deflation devices then you need to have a hard look at your training. Some tire deflation device training programs are simply ticking a box programs where the officers practice getting the devices out and throwing them in a parking lot. If there is any type of “scenario based training” it is done in a very controlled and very static environment because of the risk of someone getting hurt. Little, if any, time is devoted to decision making by everyone involved in the incident. There is also very little time spent developing the ability of officers to understand the realities of how fast vehicles travelling at certain speeds cover distance and how little time they often have to deploy the device and get to a position of safety. Little time is also spent on communication between the officer deploying the device, the incident commander and the officers in the pursuing vehicles.
It is still very common to see videos of officers in extremely vulnerable positions during the deployment of the device, remaining in the open after deploying the device and holding on to the rope so they can to attempt to pull the device out of the way of the pursuing vehicles before they run over it. We also see officers seeking “cover” behind their vehicle after deploying the device. Cover is something that will stop an incoming projectile. Your patrol vehicle will not stop a vehicle travelling 60 to 100 miles an hour and is not cover. Failing to conduct regular and effective training puts your people at significant risk.
If your agency still utilizes tire deflation devices then it is time to take a long hard look at the risks and the training. Having watched a number of videos of tire deflation device deployments it is very apparent that luck plays a huge role in the reason there are not significantly more line of duty deaths resulting from the deployment of these devices. Luck is not a good strategy when people’s lives are on the line.
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