Pursuit Intervention Technique: Myth vs. fact

Police Pursuits pose extreme danger to law enforcement officers and citizens. It is one of the few police acts that places direct danger to a third party, the innocent civilian. Due to this danger, police agencies have looked for methods to reduce the danger in police pursuits.

The Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) or Tactical Vehicle Intervention (TVI) has gained wider acceptance in recent years as a viable solution to ending pursuits safely. This technique is not new to law enforcement. Originating over two decades ago with the California Highway Patrol, the Pursuit Intervention Technique has a long history of success.

State Police Agencies have been more apt to add the technique and have subsequently led the way in training to other departments. Today, there are more law enforcement agencies than ever before utilizing the PIT to safely end pursuits. The pursuit related death following the maneuver in Georgia last month has brought renewed controversy and debate to the Pursuit Intervention Technique.

Often, police administrators have the wrong impression of this Technique and are hesitant to approve its use. These impressions typically arise from a lack of information. The remainder of this article will attempt to separate the myth from the fact as it relates to the Pursuit Intervention Technique.

  • Myth: The PIT is nothing more than Bumping and Ramming.
  • Fact: This is by far the most widely held sentiment as it relates to this maneuver. It simply is not true. Ramming a vehicle is considered deadly force and banned by most police departments. The PIT is a precision maneuver that requires substantial training. When done correctly, very little damage will be done to the vehicle and the officer and suspect will have no injuries. As a trainer, I have conducted hundreds of these maneuvers. I have never seen an injury related to the PIT. I wouldn't be able to say the same for Bumping or Ramming.

  • Myth: The PIT is a difficult maneuver.
  • Fact: In reality, the PIT is not difficult to perform. The premise is very basic and I have often observed students conduct it to perfection after one or two attempts. What should be considered much more difficult is the decision to implement the maneuver under situations of high stress. The physical element is simple; the mental aspect can be difficult.

  • Myth: PIT Training is expensive and takes too long.
  • Fact: The average training course for PIT is just 1 day. The updates can take as little as 4 hours per year. This is not extreme considering the potential benefits. Most agencies have a few training vehicles. The only extra equipment needed on the cars is wrap around bumpers.

  • Myth: PIT should only be used when deadly force is applicable.
  • Fact: In the past, intentional contact between vehicles has been considered deadly force. Recent litigation has mitigated this precedent. In Adams v. St. Lucie County Sheriff's Department, the court ruled that, while fatalities may result from intentional collisions between automobiles, they are infrequent, and therefore deadly force should not be presumed to be the level of force applied in such incidents. When used correctly along with adequate training an officer can place a suspect vehicle to a predetermined point. Injuries are rare and the success is very high. By considering the Pursuit Intervention Technique an intermediate force, officers can utilize it much more to stop dangerous police pursuits.

    The Pursuit Intervention Technique is a valuable tool in combating dangerous police pursuits. Like any law enforcement method, it will only bring success if done correctly while utilizing sound judgement. Police administrators have a duty to the public and their officers to understand the facts as they relate to the Pursuit Intervention Technique.

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