Recently we – American Cop – published an article about five significant law enforcement events, usually tragedies, and how they changed the profession operationally. Three events involved vehicle stops on armed, violent felons with a plan. All were willing to implement those plans. We need to implement high-risk stop tactics, techniques, and procedures built for non-compliant, assaultive suspects rather than compliant ones – now, more than ever.
The murder of the CHP officers at started very shortly after the moment captured here.
The first was the murder of four CHP officers in a Newhall, CA, parking lot. Briefly, the initial officers both left cover; each was focused on a separate suspect. While a shotgun was in the hands of one officer, it did not appear to have been in a ready position. Additionally, that officer took one hand off the shotgun to open the car door.
That action immediately proceeded the murders.
When a south-east U.S. agency contacted one trainer about a high-risk stops’ instructor course, the comment was made, “we do active shooter training regularly, but we haven’t ever gone to one. We frequently do high-risk stops, but we’ve never trained for them.”
This high-risk stop was at the end of a pursuit in New England after the suspect’s vehicle was rushed. Unfortunately, officers were charged in the aftermath.
One problem frequently seen during these events that could be addressed with training is the tendency for officers to rush the suspect’s vehicle. Given the oft-stated emphasis on Time, Distance, and Shielding from many, rushing the car (truck, van, etc.) is the last thing we want to do.
What are common ways for high-risk stops to be done?
LAPD officers have ordered the suspects out of the car and into the prone position.
One method, commonly known as the LAPD method, has officers working from the V – the intersection of the door and the A-pillar. The occupants are called out of the car, one at a time, and proned out on the ground. Usually on the driver’s side. Officers then break cover to approach and clear the vehicle while others cover the suspects. Then the suspects are cuffed and searched.
This method depends on the suspects complying, especially when the initial vehicle approach is made.
For reference, LAPD is the only agency I have seen using this method. They are one of the few with the resources to do it.
Officers calling the suspect back to them, between the cars, while they stand in the V.
Next is the Riverside method, as in Riverside County to the east of Los Angeles.
Once a minimum of two marked patrol vehicles are present, the officers also work from the V’s. The driver is called out of their car and called back to the marked units. Generally, once the driver is near the front bumper, they are directed onto their knees. From there, they are told to move backward on their knees; or officers will break cover and go forward of the doors to cuff an unsearched suspect.
Any remaining passengers are called out one at a time, and the process is repeated.
One at a time, each suspect is moved behind the patrol cars, where they are searched before being secured in patrol cars.
Then, officers will approach the suspect vehicle and clear it.
How much “cover” is provided when the V – the space between the A-pillar and the door – is used like this?
Well, there are a few problems with the V. There’s a tendency – and we see it in plenty of photos – for officers to stand upright in the V rather than taking advantage of what little cover the door provides. While some agencies have invested in armored doors, most have not. A few parts of the door – like the crash bar and window mechanism – will adversely impact incoming fire and its performance.
Synchronized videos from a high-risk stop that turned into a gunfight. The suspect exited the truck and shot at the officers at the driver’s door of the patrol SUV on the right. Rounds went through the door and struck both officers.
If aggressed or assaulted by the suspect(s) in the vehicle, the human tendency is to dive back into the front seat. Unfortunately, the windshield’s curve and slope will drive rounds into the center of the front seat. Right where the officer is likely to go.
The modified Riverside method – officers work from the back of the patrol vehicles. The suspects are directed around the side of those vehicles and taken into custody at the back of those vehicles.
Then there is the Modified Riverside method. Rather than work from the V and break cover to physically handcuff the suspects, officers work from the rear of the vehicles. The driver is called out first, directed to one side of the patrol cars, called the rest of the way back, handcuffed, searched, and secured. Any other passengers are handled the same way.
Officers can then approach and clear the suspect’s vehicle.
When working from the back of our vehicles, concerns are raised about the ability to verbally deliver commands and directions to the suspects without using a PA. 1st option, have the officer with the best command voice give those commands. Once you have sufficient marked units present, the 2nd option is to use the PA from one of those; this requires coordination with the officers who will interact with the suspects.
The dent in the prisoner cage is from a 147gr 9mm Federal HST that was fired from about seven feet away. An armed robbery suspect had tried to carjack the patrol SUV and was shot. While the prisoner cages do not have a ballistic rating, work from behind the patrol vehicle, with this in between, will help.
Timer, Distance, & Shielding
I mentioned Time, Distance, and Shielding – or cover – before. Moving to and working from the back of our vehicles gives us time. Moving from the V to the back of the vehicle is just a few feet. However, it increases the distance between the suspects and the officers. The length of the vehicle, with all of the internal barriers, especially when compared to a car door, increases the amount of cover officers can use. Finally, I believe that by directing and training officers to move to the rear of their vehicles, we will be cutting down on instances of rushing up to suspects.
When considering the various TTPs, remember that suspects will likely do one of four things: they’ll comply, feign compliance, flee, or assault you early on. Our tactics need to consider the most dangerous response.
Regardless of which method you choose – wear your armor, make the best use of cover possible, be very conscious of your muzzle and your teammates’ locations, and, finally, slow down – there is little need to rush these events.
Class photo after a high-risk vehicle takedown class taught by Uncle Scotty Reitz, of ITTS and -formerly- LAPD’s Metropolitan Division.
There are at least four training companies, with extensive backgrounds in police-centric vehicle work, that are teaching best practices-based variations of the modified Riverside method. Seek out and get good training for yourself and those you manage, supervise, or work with.