Department of Natural Resources
Police chases are presented on television as being fast-paced and exciting. However, it takes a lot of training and technique to operate a vehicle safely at high speeds.
During week five of the Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Training Academy, Recruit School #9 would learn Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVO) and Emergency Vehicle Maneuvers (EVM) – skills necessary to avoid vehicle impacts and collisions.
EVO are skills necessary to operate an emergency vehicle (truck, car, boat, ORV, etc.) safely, while EVM is the ability to maneuver an emergency vehicle through cone courses, skid pads and precision driving.
The training is broken into the following precision drive tasks: evasive maneuvering, precision maneuvering and controlled braking. For each task, recruits must pass three out of four attempts. If they fail, they receive additional training and a second round to attempt to pass. If they fail their second round, they are required to leave the academy.
Conservation officers are often first responders in rural emergencies and are relied on regardless of Michigan’s weather or road conditions. It’s a CO’s responsibility to ensure his or her vehicle is always in working order to arrive to a scene safely.
Week five photo: During week five, recruits learned EVO and EVM – skills necessary to avoid vehicle impacts and collisions.
Recruits were introduced to EVM and EVO in the classroom on Monday morning – instructed by a conservation officer who has received specialized drive instructor training.
The first active drive task the recruits had to pass was a serpentine – a series of cones spaced out in a straight line that the driver must weave in and out of. Serpentine driving demonstrates the ability to control a patrol vehicle around obstacles in the roadway.
Conservation officers drive Chevrolet Silverados, which weigh more and handle differently in comparison to most law enforcement vehicles. Additionally, COs often travel with heavier equipment, such as ORVs, snowmobiles, canoes or kayaks, in the pick-up box and need to be comfortable with the varying weight.
Monday photo 1: A recruit weaves in and out of a series of cones spaced out in a straight line.
Monday photo 2: The serpentine task demonstrates the ability to control a patrol vehicle around obstacles in the roadway.
Tuesday morning the recruits learned about patrol truck maintenance, including what it might feel like when their brakes start to wear out. Officers conduct regular vehicle inspections to verify that all emergency lights, sirens and other vehicle equipment is in proper working order. Conservation officers may be called to a scene in the middle of the night – it’s their responsibility to ensure their vehicles are ready to travel. If a patrol truck fails, it could jeopardize the life of the officer or someone else.
On Tuesday afternoon the recruits practiced vehicle control on the skid pad, which simulates a vehicle hitting black ice or hydroplaning on water. In a specialized skid pad patrol vehicle, the recruits approached the skid pad at a certain rate of speed, then an instructor remotely locked the vehicle’s tires, causing a skid that the recruits had to steer out of.
Tuesday photo 1: The skid pad simulates a vehicle hitting black ice or hydroplaning on water.
Tuesday photo 2: Recruits gain experience driving a patrol vehicle on the skid pad.
On Wednesday recruits practiced high-speed driving, corners and turns around a 1-mile drive track. The track features a series of curves that recruits navigate at fast speeds to practice emergency response driving. Recruits went through an exercise driving at 25 mph, increasing speed to 45 mph then 60 mph, until they reached maximum speed. For the afternoon testing, recruits had to pass cone courses and a skid pad exercise. If recruits went off the track, hit a cone, crossed the center line or failed to meet the required drive time, they failed the scenario.
Wednesday photo 1: Recruits took turns navigating cone obstacles at varying speeds.
Wednesday photo 2: Conservation officers are often first responders in rural emergencies and are relied on regardless of Michigan’s weather or road conditions.
Applying the EVO and EVM skills that they had practiced throughout the week, recruits had to drive a patrol truck through an outer cone course.
The recruits practiced a night driving scenario, where they attempted a traffic stop in which the driver of the vehicle refused to pull-over. Recruits pursued the vehicle, maneuvering through the serpentine, cone course and skid pad and around corners and various other obstacles.
EVO and EVM concluded on Friday, with a written test in the morning and additional patrol truck training. Recruits maneuvered cone courses, this time carrying an ORV – altering the weight and balance of the vehicle.
Weeks four and five of the academy presented major performance hurdles. Recruits were dismissed knowing they had put those hurdles behind them, but apprehensive that it was only week five and they had more in front of them than what they had accomplished. Not only did they endure intense water safety and drive training, but they had been split into two groups. Week six would be the first time Recruit School #9 faced challenges as a reunited team.
Friday photo: Recruits practiced vehicle maneuvering while carrying an ORV – altering the weight and balance of the vehicle.