You know the spin-out is coming.
But your heart still drops when you hear tires screeching.
It’s hard to describe what it feels like being in a car that spins out unless you’ve been there before. If you have, I hope it was in a controlled environment.
Such was my experience on a recent Friday afternoon as officers with the Federal Way Police Department participated in emergency vehicle operation course training — something they participate in every two years. Being in a spinning car with a trained police officer made the whole situation pretty fun, almost like a ride on a roller coaster.
But this training course is more than just learning how to spin-out a car and immobilize a vehicle while in pursuit.
Jeff Otto, a FWPD lieutenant, said after the car has been successfully pitted, the goal is for other police vehicles to surround the car so the suspect can’t re-orient themselves and get away afterwards.
It’s good training to have, but not something FWPD runs into every day.
During the afternoon, officers also practiced PIT training, or Pursuit Immobilization Technique. This isn’t a skill the officers have to use very often on the job, but they still keep up on the training. It’s better to know how to do it and not have to use it, said Otto, one of the PIT trainers.
After that training, I feel pretty confident in my own pitting skills, though I doubt an opportunity will ever present itself.
Along with PIT Training, officers also went through an autocross course designed to help them get to know the size and maneuvering of their vehicles around a cone course designed with tight corners and sudden turns going typical city limit speeds.
Going through the course is harder than it looks, since passing requires officers to finish it in under one minute without hitting any cones.
I went through the course with FWPD Chief of Police Andy Hwang about four times.
His only goal in the course was to get the course record: 51 seconds without hitting any cones.
We weren’t actually going that fast, but flying around tight concerns going 40 miles per hour feels like 80. I couldn’t keep myself from flying around the passenger seat.
I was also trying to get video footage of Hwang going through the course from inside his car, but we were going so fast around turns that at some points in the video all you can see is an extreme close-up of his face, which certainly makes you feel like you’re in the car with us.
In the end, Hwang did break the course record with an impressive 48 seconds.
He did hit a cone at the beginning of the course though, but everyone agreed to let that part go for the chief.
The last training I observed was a backing course in what instructors referred to as the “sea of cones.”
It’s as exciting as it sounds.
Officers backed through a cone course to learn the spatiality of their squad cars.
Officer Charlie Hinkle said while it’s not the most exciting part of the training, it’s very necessary.
“Police officers like backing into places,” he said, so learning how to do it correctly without damaging any surroundings it important.
The officers go through all the courses as many times as they can in the slotted times they are at the training courses.
And while it is possible for officers to fail the training because of the time they take going through each course, it’s very unlikely.
“I don’t think we’ve had anyone outright fail,” Mark Benson, one of the EVOC certified instructors and FWPD lieutenant said.
The day feels really relaxed, too. The training is important, but there’s a lot of ribbing and jokes being tossed around as well.
On my first observation of the autocross course, one of the officers hit a cone near the end of the track.
All of a sudden from his open window you could hear, “Dammit, I hit a cone!”
I laughed out loud, but I might have been the only one to.
From spinning out to whipping around cones, it’s hard to see from the outside all the fast-paced work that goes into being a Federal Way police officer. I’m thankful for the opportunity to join them during one of their training days and show the community everything Federal Way’s finest puts into protecting this city.
I also joined a FWPD officer on a ride-along last October and documented my experience in a column.