BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The days of training Homewood police officers endure specifically for high speed pursuits, paid off when they pursued and captured two suspects believed to have carjacked a woman in the WalMart parking lot on Lakeshore Parkway in October 2018.
“There’s a lot of things he’s having to think about and monitor," says Sgt. Justin Self, the man in charge of the Homewood Police Department’s training division, about the responsibilities an officer in hot pursuit. "Road conditions, traffic conditions, what the offender’s doing inside the vehicle, what kind of movements he’s making. He’s also having to plan for the future when this thing comes to an end. Whether it’s a crash or the offender gives up--how are we going to approach the vehicle? Does the passenger run, does the driver run?”
A supervisor is always in command when a pursuit starts and can call it off at any time, depending on a number of factors including time of day and traffic conditions--in the October pursuit, the suspects were going over 100mph on I-20/59.
“He’s getting the up-to-date information, the officer’s voice, how the officer sounds over the radio,” Sgt. Self relays as he watches a replay of the pursuit from dashcam video. “Things like that go into helping a supervisor determine whether to terminate or continue a pursuit.”
That night, the supervisor was one of at least 3 Homewood vehicles involved in the heated pursuit--hanging back as the suspects veer off the interstate at the Oporto-Madrid Boulevard exit and start racing through neighborhoods at up to 80 miles per hour.
The lead officer tried more than once to use the PIT maneuver to spin out the stolen car, but at times the perpetrators are going too fast to do it safely.
“That narrow street there, they were just on, doing a pit there at 50 mph, doing that there on a street lined with trees, you’re gonna send that car into a tree that’s all there is to it,” Self warns. “Doing 50 and hitting a tree---again that’s things you have to look at.”
Finally, the driver starts to lose control as he screams through the Woodlawn area, fishtailing, sparks flying, before the Homewood officer successfully pits the car to a stop.
A second Homewood officer drives up to block the driver’s side door and for the first time you get a look at 2 obviously young men, now with their hands up.
“Somebody’s going to come into Homewood and commit a crime, we’re going to chase you. We’re going to adhere to our policy and after that pursuit, we’re going to go back and review the tape and see how we can get better, get safer, see if we need to tweak our policy in any way to make it easier for our officers to do their job.”