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Rincon to train officers how to stop pursuits

POSTED: October 27, 2011 6:29 p.m.

In the wake of a recent high-speed chase that started in Rincon and ended in a Savannah neighborhood, more Rincon Police officers will be trained in the technique their chief used to end the pursuit safely.

Chief Mike Bohannon, one of only two Rincon officers trained in PIT, or pursuit intervention technique, asked city council members to send the rest of his department to receive that instruction. Sgt. Phillip Scholl is the other member of the RPD to be certified in the PIT maneuver.

“Had the officers been certified in PIT, we could have prevented the chase from reaching Chatham County,” Bohannon said. “The PIT maneuver can terminate a chase pretty quickly.”

The instruction will be done at no cost to the department.

From the time an officer enacts a PIT move, it’s usually 3.58 seconds before the chase comes to a stop, Bohannon said. A PIT move, he added, does not mean the law enforcement officer rams a suspect’s car.

“If a person is properly trained, it stops the pursuit,” he said. “We would not have had the risk to officers and citizens if we had had PIT training for more officers.”

The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office has about two dozen deputies trained in the PIT move and is working to get more deputies certified, said ECSO spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor.

The pursuit, which started at Towne Park and Highway 21 in Rincon, lasted 12 minutes and video of the chase shows the suspects weaving through heavy traffic on Highway 21, even somehow making their way through a road work area without hitting anyone.

Stop sticks also can be used to end a chase, but Bohannon pointed out those couldn’t be used in the last chase.

“We have to channel that traffic, and Highway 21is such a big road,” he said.

There also are safeguards and restrictions on when to use the PIT, Bohannon said. When he directed his patrol car into the fleeing Cadillac, he first spotted an open field into which he could spin the suspect’s vehicle.

The police department also will put in place guidelines on when and how to use the PIT move in chases. PIT instruction includes when officers can use the move and when they should avoid it.

“We have a pursuit policy,” Bohannon said. “There are certain places you PIT and certain places you don’t. We’ve had nothing but with success with them and we’ve had no injuries.”

City Attorney Raymond Dickey said the pursuit policy also calls for when a suspect will be chased. For instance, a parking violation won’t trigger a chase but a violent crime will.

With the most recent chase, it all began after Cpl. Jose Ramirez spotted a handgun in the car and the vehicle took off.

“This incident fit our pursuit policy like a charm,” Dickey said.

Bohannon has been involved in three chases where he’s used the PIT maneuver. Bohannon praised Ramirez’s actions in the pursuit but said if Ramirez were PIT-trained, he might have been able to stop the chase sooner.

Bohannon, on his way back to Rincon from a meeting in Savannah, joined the chase near the Port Wentworth-Garden City line. He followed the suspects in a chase that went over 100 mph on Highway 21 and was able to stop their vehicle on Savannah’s Augusta Avenue.

“For 12 minutes, it was Katy bar the door,” the chief said of the chase.

The driver of the Cadillac got out and fled but the other two occupants were arrested on the spot. Authorities caught Lorenzo Hall, the driver, soon afterward. Lorenzo Hall, Devante Hall and Terry Bernard Bell Jr. were charged with felony fleeing and eluding, aggravated assault and reckless driving. Lorenzo Hall and Devante Hall are from Savannah and Bell is from Rincon.

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