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Reporter gets behind-the-wheel training in police pursuits

Drive in police ‘office' gives close look at road maneuvers
BY MATT DINGER Modified: October 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm •  Published: October 21, 2012

Sgt. Keith Cornman starts giving me instructions on evasive driving as we maneuver small curves in the training course at highway speeds.

I'm a little nervous, and getting up to 60 mph in seconds as he navigates a series of small, meandering curves doesn't do anything to calm me.

I get my bearings before we take off, but I'm on edge after making a turn at a fairly sharp angle at a speed I'd never be comfortable with in my own vehicle. I swear we've already driven over the row of traffic cones before he even jerks the wheel to avoid them, but a little pull to the side and a short squeal of rubber and we're back on course, the orange markers still upright in our rearview.

My turn.

The first pass goes exceedingly well, even though I was only driving about 50 mph. Still tense, but it gives me a bit of confidence. I know dozens of police officers and driving instructors are watching with amusement from the other side of the track.

I've loosened a bit when making my second pass. But when Cornman gives his one-word order from the back seat — “Left.” — everything falls apart.

I hesitate, then pull too hard on the wheel and start to lose control. Panic sets in and I immediately overcorrect, sending the scout car into a spin. The car loses momentum quickly and we come to a stop. I glance in the rearview mirror and Cornman is calm, a slight smirk on his face.

The third attempt is worse. When Cornman barks the order — something he admits he intentionally did — my foot punches the gas briefly and the damage is already done.

Having spun out once, I knew what to expect, but instantly knew this was going to be worse. I lost count of how many times we spun. My mind emptied and I gave up control, only responding to orders from Cornman once we'd decelerated enough to regain control of the car.

By the time everything has stopped spinning for the second time, I want out of that car.

“Not as easy as it looks, huh?” Cornman asks.

At the office

Police officers jokingly refer to their vehicles as their offices, but it's more true than not.

And between 2007 and 2010 in Oklahoma City, those offices were used to chase fleeing suspects 673 times, resulting in 517 apprehensions.

Of those pursuits, 32 resulted in collisions with an officer's vehicle.

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