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Training day: Defensive use of your patrol car

There are several circumstances where your patrol car can effectively be used to stop a deadly threat


An officer conducts a traffic stop, but before they can exit their car, the driver of the other car exits, produces a firearm, takes aim and starts firing on the officer.

If this happened to you, which of the following options would you pick?

  • Quickly exit, take cover and fire on the threat.
  • Access a firearm and shoot through the windshield.
  • Put the car in reverse.
  • Use the car as an impact weapon.

The last idea is not a new one.

In 2015, an officer from an Arizona police department used a patrol car to run over an armed suspect who was firing a weapon into the air. Remarkedly, that suspect survived.

In 2017, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a woman wanted for several gun-related crimes was run over and killed by a Tulsa officer as she exchanged gunfire with officers.

In 2018, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a male homicide suspect was run over by police at the conclusion of a vehicle pursuit and exchanging gunfire with police. He was on foot and attempting to flee. He survived being struck.

In each of these cases, patrol cars were used to stop deadly force threats.

Training day scenarios

For our training day, we set up three traffic stop scenarios. In all three, the driver of the car exited and presented a deadly force threat from various positions.

In the video below, the tall green traffic cones represent the vehicle being stopped, and the tall orange stanchions represent the armed threat.

Immediately after each stop, and after the patrol car had been placed in park, a radioed command of threat was given. Of course, it may be the case that the threat is presented before the patrol car has been placed into park, and if so, using the car defensively could occur quicker.

Once the threat signal was received, the officer put their car into gear, aimed it toward the threat, hit the gas hard and struck the suspect. The officer also dropped their head low while leaning their head toward the inside A-Pillar (not seen in the video). Pillars can provide some level of ballistic protection, especially from handgun rounds.

Of course, in any real situation, variables such as distance, location, time of day and road conditions may dictate the officer’s response and affect the outcome of the event.

It is also important to remember that the use of your vehicle as an impact weapon may be considered deadly force and should only be considered in situations where there is an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury.

Setting up training

For the training video we had access to an academy driver training track. The track was closed off to all other vehicle traffic and activity for safety reasons.

Here is what you will need to conduct a similar training event:

  • Six 36-inch traffic cones: 4 to set up a mock vehicle stop, 2 to place around the ladder position
  • Two 45” traffic stations with 3” hip collars and a 10 lb. base. The stanchions hold up well after multiple impacts. We rotated the use of the stanchions between events.
  • Two portable radios
  • Patrol car/training car
  • Camera
  • 15’ step ladder for filming (a drone could also be used).


There could be several circumstances where your patrol car could effectively be used to stop various deadly force threats during traffic stops, confronting armed persons on foot or in a case of ambush. Training officers on the defensive use of their patrol car as a use of force option may very well save lives.

Next: 1,000 cops address non-compliance during traffic stops

Captain Rod Davis Sr., retired from the Stafford County (Virginia) Sheriff’s Office after serving over 40 years in law enforcement. He has over 30 years of experience as a law enforcement/corrections defensive tactics instructor in Virginia and previously served on two curriculum review committees for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, developing training requirements for use of force and control tactics for Virginia’s law enforcement and jail officers. He is a co-founder of Special Combat, Defensive Tactics USA, located in Mechanicsville, Virginia. For more information regarding police training and officer safety, contact Rod at 804/317-9070, or