In pursuit of safe pursuits

Looking in the passenger side mirror of a drug-seized Lexus, the police cars were hot on our tail with sirens blaring, but for Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Jon VanGesen it was a typical day of emergency vehicle operations course (EVOC) training.

He was the “suspect” driver and, on Thursday, I was along for the ride. VanGesen, a course instructor, accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in a number of seconds, swerving between cones, jolting us from side to side, hydroplaning through huge puddles as the rain belted down on the once-luxury vehicle.

Bremerton Raceway was transformed into an extensive training course that spanned two weeks, training a total of about 200 area law enforcement. Thursday’s three-hour block (training was continuous, day and night) began with high speed pursuits and ended in cars being spun out left and right in what is known as a pursuit intervention technique (PIT) in police lingo. The EVOC training is hosted by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office twice a year as a refresher course for law enforcement. Participating in Thursday’s training was not only the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, but also the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Department, the Lakewood Police Department and the Port Angeles Police Department.

For each mock pursuit, a scenario was played out that paralleled real life situations that police come into contact with. In one scenario VanGesen portrayed a shoplifter, but the pursuit escalated after it was dispatched that he had a gun and was shooting at passing cars. Throughout the “pursuit” the students are evaluated on how they handle the situation.

“That’s why we do this here, they learn from it and do it better,” said Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Green, another instructor. “We teach people a little more advanced skills in driving because we end up driving in situations that average citizens don’t get involved in.”

Each student partaking in the training was reviewed by an instructor who dealt out a pass or fail result. For VanGesen, one of the biggest rewards is being afforded the opportunity to help others improve their skills.

“The biggest thing is helping them prevent injuring themselves or the public,” he said.

Before joining in on the mock pursuit with VanGesen

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