OPD recruits practice vehicle pursuits

All week, 10 recruits of the 16th session of the Odessa Police Department Police Academy have been out every morning honing their driving skills to become accustomed to high-speed pursuits.

With several different obstacle courses set up every morning in the parking lot of Ratliff Stadium, the recruits utilize multiple different maneuvers, such as handling sharp curves and turns and quick evasive maneuvers, to simulate obstacles they may encounter in an actual chase. OPD Spokesman Cpl. Michael Hamilton said the recruits have passed all their courses so far, and have just been going through the routines over and over to ensure they are prepared.

“The more repetitions you get, the better you are,” Hamilton said.

But evasive maneuvers aren’t the only thing these recruits are learning this week.

“The purpose is learning emergency vehicle operations,” driving instructor John Langs said. “The stress involved in pursuit is more than just driving.”

While the pursuit of a possible suspect attempting to evade police can be stressful enough, Langs said officers also need to be focused on handling emergency sirens and radio communications while also being concerned with the safety of those around them.

During pursuit, officers are taught to remain in constant contact with dispatch to let them know if it is a valid pursuit, and to provide location so other officers may come and assist, Langs said. Officers pursue vehicles in cases such as when they are in a vehicle listed as stolen, or there is a warrant for their arrest, or they attempt to evade officers during a traffic stop.

Officers will let dispatch know multiple conditions along with the offense, Langs said, such as descriptions of the vehicle and the suspect driving, their current location, traffic and weather conditions, and the speed at which the driver and the officer are traveling.

Joe Galindo, 21, is one of the 10 OPD recruits who spent the week learning the various tips and tactics for pursuit, and emphasized safety as one of the key factors when considering pursuit.

“If we’re willing to chase someone, we have to make sure that no one’s life is in danger besides our own,” Galindo said.

These 10 recruits will be graduating from the Odessa Police Academy on July 27, at which point they will join the ranks of OPD, which OPD Spokesman Steve LeSueur said currently has 23 openings for their budget of 182 officers.