Analysis

Communications
Maintaining good communications with the dispatcher and responding officers is important in any dangerous situation, but especially in foot pursuits. As with car chases, the ongoing movement of everyone involved increases the need for frequent updates and accurate information. In fact, in some ways it is even more important in a foot chase than in a vehicle pursuit, because it is often harder to pinpoint exact locations and get help to anyone who needs it in foot pursuits.

It is also important to notify dispatch as soon as possible. Detective Reston pointed out he and Officer Brown delayed calling in the pursuit for several minutes because they didn’t want to bother dispatch with an apparently minor incident related to their secondary job. In a typical display of his warrior mindset, he explained the delay would have increased the chances of Abner escaping if Abner had succeeded in disabling or killing him. Though secondary to officer safety, the apprehension of violent offenders is of great importance, especially when the offender has killed or wounded an officer, and good communications is essential to achieving that objective.

Minor Offenses
Reston and Brown’s reluctance to call in the pursuit was indicative of the way many, if not most, officers would act under similar circumstances. It is not unusual for officers to be reluctant to call for help when off-duty, and we all tend to be less concerned about safety when dealing with minor offenses. Nevertheless, the harsh realities of police work dictate otherwise. According to the 2011 Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report, 9.4 percent of the officers murdered over the past decade were off duty when attacked.4 Further, while there is too little hard data available to determine the exact percentage of officer deaths and injuries that can be attributed to misdemeanors, we all know of cases in which officers have been killed while handling them. And the available data, limited though it may be, lends support to this observation. Over the past 10 years, almost twice as many officers were killed during misdemeanor traffic stops/pursuits (62) than during felony stops/pursuits (36).5 While it would be a stretch to assume the same is true regarding non-traffic offenses, this data makes it clear there can be no presumption of safety just because the offenses involved appear to be minor ones.