Foot Pursuit Tactics

No officer wants to give up on a pursuit as long as there is a hope of catching the perpetrator, but we must curb our emotions and decide whether to continue the pursuit on the basis of objective reasoning, not emotions. The same holds true for the tactics we use. Keep your anger and/or enthusiasm for catching the perpetrator in check, and use tactics that are built around the goals of making yourself a harder target and giving yourself time to react if something goes wrong. For example, slow down enough to plan ahead and keep from becoming exhausted; vary your position relative to the suspect, including going over and around obstacles at a different spot than he/she did; and pace yourself to allow the offender to tire him/herself out.

Body Armor
Though we can never be sure of what any given bullet will do to a human body, it is very likely that Reston’s body armor saved his life. One of Abner’s rounds struck him in the right chest where it would probably have penetrated his right lung and caused massive internal bleeding, and another hit him squarely in the trauma plate. His chances of surviving a gunshot wound to that location would have been very slim.

Of almost equal importance is the fact that Reston’s body armor enabled him to fight back. As Detective Reston put it in an interview with PoliceOne, “Your armor is a tool, and all that tool did was keep me, the weapon, in the fight. So you need to wear it … to up your chances of staying in that fight.”6 Had he been disabled by severe wounds to his torso, it would have left Abner free to attack Officer Brown as he approached the scene, fire on other responding officers, and/or escape to prey on innocent citizens. As police officers, we have more than a right to defend ourselves. We also have a duty to defend others, and we can’t defend others if we are dead or incapacitated. Body armor does more than keep us alive; it also helps us protect those we serve.

The fact that Detective Reston was off-duty has special significance here. Officers tend to ignore the need for body armor as well as other essential equipment when working off-duty. Wearing a vest may seem unnecessarily inconvenient and overly cautious, but Reston is living proof this is not the case. Law enforcement entails risks, whether on- or off-duty, and violent criminals don’t discriminate between the two.

Suspect Mindset
The cold-blooded aggressiveness of Abner’s attack characterizes the brutal mindset of many of the predators who try to kill police officers and sometimes succeed. By blindsiding Reston with a contact-range shot to the face, pumping round after round into him after he was down, and then turning back to finish the job when Reston returned fire, he demonstrated more than a willingness to kill. In a warrior, such tenacity is born from selfless courage under fire, but in a violent criminal, it shows fierce recklessness spawned by burning anger. Abner obviously wanted Detective Reston dead so badly, he was willing to walk through a wall of lead to kill him.

Fortunately, Detective Reston was a warrior equal to the challenge. He gave back more than he received and persevered. Predators like Abner are a fact of life in our world. Rather than discourage us, this fact should renew our resolve to work hard, train hard, and do everything we can to be prepared to win against all odds.

Winning Mindset
Detective Reston had mentally prepared himself to deal with lethal violence long before his confrontation with Abner. A realist, he had already accepted the fact that police work includes the very real potential for human violence, and he knew his hard-charging way of doing business would eventually lead him there. He also understood the kind of violence human beings are capable of inflicting on one another, and he knew the job sometimes calls for the use of “unspeakable violence” to counter such brutality. He willingly accepted this harsh truth, and was committed to do whatever he had to do within the law to defend himself or others. This kind of attitude is very common among winners. Instead of planning what they will do if confronted with lethal violence, they plan what they will do when it happens.

Like other winners, Detective Reston also refused to give up. Despite the fact Abner had drawn first blood, despite the fact he was down and had taken multiple hits from Abner’s hard-hitting .45, despite the fact Abner came back for more, he ignored his injuries, rejected any thoughts of fear or defeat, and focused on only one thought—fighting back! When it seems all is lost, fighting back is the only answer. Anything else will only make things worse, and nothing else matters. Detective Reston’s dogged resolve in the face of apparent defeat should be an inspiration to all of us.