From Driving to Drones
(ABOVE) Berea Police Sgt. Ron Ward, outside the car, points out the driving course to Sgt. Eric Davidson. The Berea Police Department is one of 26.79 percent of agencies who responded “Yes” to the question, “Does your agency have a certified driving instructor.” Berea Police Chief David Gregory said since the agency started holding regular driving training, the number of police-involved collision has gone down. (Photo by Jim Robertson)
It goes without saying that law enforcement officers spend countless hours driving in the performance of their duty.
According to the Department of Criminal Justice Training 2018 Comprehensive Survey, law enforcement officers throughout the state drive a myriad of front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel vehicles on a daily basis as they crisscross the roads in their respective communities.
With all the miles logged, it is reasonable to think law enforcement agencies would require officers to undergo regular driving training.
But, according to the Comprehensive Survey, that isn’t the case. Sixty-five percent of the 208 agencies who responded to the specific question, “Does your agency require officers to attend vehicle operations training?” responded, “No.”
Between 2008 and 2017, nearly a quarter of the nation’s 1,511 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty died in motor vehicle accidents, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund website.
The reasons for the number of fatal wrecks involving law enforcement are many, but a common denominator is a lack of training, Glasgow Police Chief Guy Howie said.
“Driving skills are like any other perishable skill (that) needs practice from time-to-time,” Howie said. “Just because we drive every day does not mean we are doing it correctly.”
Howie’s agency was among the 34.13 percent who answered “Yes” to the question.
For the Glasgow chief, it’s simply a case of practice makes perfect.
“Just because a football team is perfect in a game, they go right back to practice the next week to tune their skills for the next game,” Howie said. “We are putting high-energy people behind the wheel of a 3,700-pound police car. I would venture to say police agencies create more property damage and maybe injuries (while driving) than they do arresting people. We need to stay on top of our skills.”
According to the survey, 26.79 percent of the 209 agencies responded “Yes” to the question, “Does your agency have a certified driving instructor?”
Driving training is equally as important as firearms or any other training, Berea Police Chief David Gregory said.
“We feel driving training is an important job duty that every police officer encounters every day,” he said. “In 2016, our agency was seeing an increase in backing accidents, and we felt, at that time, it was important to address this issue, and lower liability in this area.”
To that end, Berea appointed Sgt. Ron Ward as its driving training instructor in August 2017. Berea responded “Yes” to having an in-house driving training instructor, according to the survey.
Since Berea began emphasizing driving training, the agency has seen tangible results.
“We have seen a decrease in police-involved collisions,” Gregory said. “We believe that officers are less distracted when backing and become more involved with their surroundings while driving.”
In the end, the decision to require yearly driving training and an in-house instructor boils down to officer safety and fiscal responsibility for the agency.
“We understand it’s hard, and sometimes difficult to have training on driving,” Gregory said. “I believe spending a few minutes in roll call and talking to everyone about speeding, wearing your vest and seat belt, and keeping that extra distance between you and the next car, could prevent injuries.”
From vehicles and guns to the implementation of new technology, law enforcement agencies are tasked with finding the best methods to combat crime.
With that in mind, a new question the comprehensive survey asked was about the use of drones.
In all, 202 agencies responded to this question, with 12 percent responding “Yes” to utilizing a drone in their operations.
Georgetown Police Chief Mike Bosse said his agency began using its drone in 2016.
“We use the drone in many facets of law enforcement,” Bosse said. “From assisting with search and rescue to aerial photos of crime scenes to monitoring community events. We use the drone at night to canvass entire neighborhoods for larceny from car suspects.”
RESPONDING AGENCIES THAT UTILIZE DRONES
The decision to add a drone into its arsenal paid near-immediate dividends, Bosse said.
“Within Georgetown, we used the drone to find burglary suspects hiding on a commercial rooftop within the first month of having it,” he said. “This prevented having to call out the fire department (for its ladder) and having an officer peer over the top risking being seen by the suspect.”
Georgetown has also successfully used the drone to locate stolen vehicles and missing people, Bosse said.
“We have assisted BACKUPPS (Bluegrass and Central Kentucky Unified Police Protection System) agencies in finding a stolen truck in a rural area and used it to find a lost grandmother and her granddaughter, also in a rural area,” Bosse said.
Georgetown spent $4,000 for the drone and another $12,000 for the infrared camera.
The department has three Federal Aviation Administration-certified drone pilots and three support personnel.
“(We) have a six-person Aviation Unit which is subject to call out on a 24/7 basis,” Bosse said. “They assist our patrol section with the extra patrol of areas that may be experiencing increased crime. They photograph accident and crime scenes, and the infrared (camera’s) capabilities really enhance our officers’ ability to locate subjects.”
Equipment questions were not limited to driving and drones. Other areas of interest in the 2018 Comprehensive Survey included:
37 percent of responding agencies issue their officers shotguns and require them to carry those weapons; another 21 percent of the respondents said shotguns were issued upon request of the individual officers
According to the survey, the .40 caliber handgun is the most often authorized for use both on-duty and off-duty
60 percent of those who responded to the survey were aware of the Violent Person File. This file is located in the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) system. It is designed to alert law enforcement officers that an individual they encounter may show violence toward law enforcement. But only 34 percent (of the agencies) reported entering individuals into the system.
2018 Comprehensive Survey
For additional information about salaries, insurance, retirement and more, click here to download a PDF of the entire 2018 Comprehensive Survey.